During the whole course of pregnancy, doctors are monitoring the amount of hemoglobin in the expectant mother’s blood. Low iron indicates that the woman has anemia during pregnancy, which is a widespread but still an undesirable condition. This article will help you to learn more about the reasons for such health impairment, its symptoms, and ways of treatment.
The Reasons for Anemia while Pregnant
Low iron during pregnancy occurs on the background of the following factors:
- An unhealthy diet of the expectant mother, an insufficient amount of vitamins in the daily ration. It can be the aftermath of losing weight, unhealthy eating habits, or poor living conditions.
- Digestive tract diseases can lead to anemia in pregnancy, especially if they’re accompanied by bleeding. The blood loss deprives the female body of many necessary nutrients. The stomach and intestinal diseases interfere with the digestion of the nutrients received from food.
- Hormonal changes in the female body can affect the production of red blood cells which is also leading to the anemia during pregnancy.
- Another reason the woman becomes anemic during pregnancy is the reduction in immunity, which is a common occurrence after the conception.
- The lack of proteins, vitamin B12, and folic acid also results in low iron during pregnancy.
- Any heavy bleeding can cause anemia.
Some of the future mothers are prone to anemia during pregnancy more than others. Iron deficiency usually develops when:
- The soon-to-be mom is a vegetarian;
- It’s not the first pregnancy;
- It’s a teenage pregnancy;
- The pregnant woman has previously suffered from dysentery, pyelonephritis, or hepatitis;
- The woman had heavy periods before pregnancy;
- The expectant mother has an excess of amniotic fluid;
- The woman is pregnant with twins;
- The woman has such chronic illnesses as rheumatism, tonsillitis, enterocolitis, gastritis, duodenitis;
- The pregnant woman has heart disease;
- The woman was anemic before pregnancy;
- The future mother got pregnant while breastfeeding;
- The woman has diabetes;
- The soon-to-be mom has a miscarriage or viral infection during pregnancy in her medical history.
The Symptoms of Anemia in Pregnant Women
At first, there are no clear symptoms of anemia during pregnancy – the doctors usually detect the disorder after taking a blood sample. But in severe cases of anemia, you may experience such symptoms as:
- General weakness, fatigue, sleepiness;
- Increased heart rate;
- Nervousness, irritability;
- Trouble concentrating;
- Heart pain;
- Digestive disorders;
- Low appetite.
Anemia during pregnancy often affects the woman’s appearance. Her skin becomes pale and dry, nails fragile, lips cracked. Sometimes you can add hair loss to these symptoms.
But for a clear diagnosis, you’ll need to get tested for hemoglobin. The blood samples are usually taken every time you see your physician for a mandatory examination. Anemia is a common occurrence during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, but some future moms experience its symptoms much earlier. At the early pregnancy stages the blood sample is taken once a month, during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters – once every two weeks.
The Risks Anemia During Pregnancy Represents
Anemia during pregnancy represents dangerous consequences. Low iron can induce late toxicosis; reduce other valuable elements in blood: nickel, cobalt, manganese, zinc. Hemoglobin deficiency causes a reduction in immunity. Approximately 1/3 of the anemic pregnant women are suffering from early toxemia and have a 48% risk of gestosis. Almost a half of such women have high odds of a miscarriage and 40% – of placental detachment. The number of patients suffering from low blood pressure during pregnancy is about the same. Besides the aforementioned health threats, there are other unpleasant consequences of iron deficiency during pregnancy, such as weak labor, premature birth, and heavy postpartum bleeding.
Anemia during pregnancy takes its toll on a baby as well. Anemia causes fetal development to slow down because of oxygen deprivation: the baby may have various diseases or malformations. Even if anemia during pregnancy hasn’t been severe, the baby is often born with low hemoglobin levels and their body can’t form enough iron. The aftermath, in this case, maybe frequent colds, respiratory syndromes, pneumonia, allergies, and other diseases.
The Treatment of Anemia While Pregnant
If anemia during pregnancy is not severe, it can be cured with a healthy pregnancy diet and vitamins. In the case of a health-threatening condition, anemia in pregnancy is also treated with medications. Here are the ways to treat iron deficiency during pregnancy.
The Diet for Treating Anemia
Among the rich in iron products, red meat comes first. The human body gets 30-35% of the necessary element from it. There are, of course, other iron-containing products, but our body can’t digest more than 17% of hemoglobin from them. In order to prevent anemia during pregnancy or cure this condition when it’s still in its early stages, the future mother should add the following food to her diet:
- Eggs (especially the yolk);
- Veal and beef;
- Chicken meat;
The balance of consumed nutrients directly affects the hemoglobin level in the body. In the first weeks of pregnancy, a future mother should consume at least 75 g. of proteins, 85 g. of fats, and 350 g. carbohydrates every day. The food should make up about 2700-2800 kcal per day. At the beginning of the 2nd trimester, you can increase the caloric content – it must become around 3200 kcal per day (130 g. proteins, 100 g. fats, 420 g. carbohydrates).
All the necessary nutrients can be received from the products that are most rich in them. For example, here are good sources of proteins: beef, heart and liver, chicken and quail eggs, and milk. The best sources of lipids are cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, and cream. The products rich in carbohydrates are cereals, beans, fruit, vegetables, dried fruit, berries, and nuts. You should definitely include fresh greenery and honey (if you are not allergic) in your pregnancy diet.
Medical Treatment of Anemia
If you’ve been diagnosed with 1st or 2nd-degree anemia during pregnancy, a healthy diet won’t be enough to treat it. You will have to make up for the iron deficiency with the help of iron-containing medications. Most of them are perfectly safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Such medications are very effective – you’ll be able to see visible results after 2-3 weeks of treatment. By this time your hemoglobin level will have increased. The production of red blood cells in your body will be back to normal in the 5th-8th week of treatment.
The iron-containing medications should be taken at mealtimes because it makes them more effective. However, keep in mind that some products can slow down the digestion of iron. Iron-containing medications are usually prescribed in combination with vitamin C. The daily dose shouldn’t exceed 55 mg. of iron. An overdose can lead to digestive tract disorders.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.