Anemia During Pregnancy

What does it mean to be anemic during pregnancy, and how does it affect baby? Learn about the signs, symptoms and treatments.
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April 28, 2017
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What is anemia during pregnancy?

If you’re anemic, that means you have too few red blood cells (the cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your blood) or they’re too small. If it’s iron-deficiency anemia, it’s due to low levels of iron in your blood. But there are many other types of anemia that are caused by illness or disease, such as sickle-cell anemia.

What are the signs of anemia during pregnancy?

In the beginning, you might not show any signs at all. As it worsens, you might feel fatigue, weakness, dizziness, chest pain or irritability. You might notice your skin looking pale, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, or numb or cold hands and feet.

Are there any tests for anemia during pregnancy?

Yes, your blood will probably get tested for anemia as part of your initial pregnancy blood work and again between weeks 24 and 28.

How common is anemia during pregnancy?

Fairly common! According to the Utah Department of Health, about 20 percent of pregnant women get anemia.

How did I get anemia?

Your body may have problems making red blood cells, or they may die faster than it can make them. Low levels of iron or vitamin B12 can cause anemia; so can blood loss or an underlying disease (such as kidney disease). If it’s a blood disease such as sickle-cell anemia, thalassemia or aplastic anemia, you inherited it.

How will my anemia affect baby?

Just how it could affect your pregnancy depends on the type of anemia you have. In mild cases, there’s probably nothing to worry about, but severe iron-deficiency anemia could affect how baby grows and put her at risk for preterm birth. Genetic anemia can increase the chances of complications for both mom and baby, so it’s important that you get good prenatal care throughout your pregnancy.

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What’s the best way to treat anemia during pregnancy?

Your doctor will probably prescribe an iron supplement, likely in a higher dose than most  prenatal vitamins contain. With iron-deficiency anemia, you may also be at a higher risk for postpartum depression, so your doctor may screen you more closely for it after the birth. Each type of anemia has its own specific treatments and concerns, so be sure to get the full scoop on your condition from your doctor.

What can I do to prevent anemia?

Get plenty of iron. Women need about 18 mg of iron each day, and pregnant women need about 27 mg. Dried fruits, oatmeal, spinach, broccoli and dark-meat poultry are all good sources of iron.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have anemia?

“I was anemic with my first [pregnancy], and I am this time too. I take an OTC ferrous sulfate iron supplement.”

“I’m anemic…I picked up a bottle of iron pills and took them to the OB, and she said to take one on an empty stomach, followed by an orange or a small cup of OJ.”

“I’m [anemic]. I am taking prescription iron pills because they also have additional B vitamins for helping to build my blood back up, as well as vitamin C to help me absorb the iron better. Also, the prescription ones seem to make me less constipated.”

Are there any other resources for anemia during pregnancy?

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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