Anemia is a common medical problem among pregnant women. The number of red blood cells in your blood is low; the quantity of these cells is not enough to carry the oxygen needed by your body.
Anemia occurs often in pregnancy because of the developing fetus's demand for iron and because your blood volume increases by about 40% during pregnancy. Blood is made up of fluid and cells. The fluid usually increases faster than the cells. This may cause a drop in your hematocrit (the volume, amount or percentage of red cells in the blood). The drop can result in anemia.
It is important to treat anemia during pregnancy. If you are anemic, you won't feel well during pregnancy. You'll tire more easily. You may feel dizzy. If you're anemic when you go into labor, you're more likely to need a blood transfusion after your baby is born. Pregnancy anemia can increase the risk of preterm delivery, growth retardation (not the same as "mental retardation;" it refers to the baby's physical growth) in the baby and low birthweight. Your healthcare provider will check you for anemia and if you are anemic, she may prescribe a course of treatment for you.
The most common type of anemia is called iron-deficiency anemia. While you're pregnant, your baby uses some of your iron stores. With iron-deficiency anemia, your body does not make enough red blood cells to keep up with the increased demand.
Several other factors may cause this condition, including:
|bleeding during pregnancy|
|recent surgery on your stomach or small bowel|
|frequent antacid use|
|poor dietary habits|
Fortunately, iron-deficiency anemia is usually easy to control. Iron is contained in most prenatal vitamins, or your may receive iron supplements as well as your prenatal vitamins. If you can't take a prenatal vitamin, you may be given iron supplements. Eating certain foods, such as liver or spinach, also helps increase your iron intake.
Sickle-cell anemia is different from iron-deficiency anemia. It occurs when a person's bone marrow makes abnormal red blood cells. Sickle-cell anemia occurs most often in people of African or Mediterranean descent or those of mixed-black descent. Your doctor can perform a blood test to see if you have this disease.
Sickle-cell anemia can cause pain in the abdomen or limbs of the mother-to-be if she has a sickle crisis. (This can happen at any time in her lifetime, not just during pregnancy.) In addition to a painful sickle crisis, a pregnant woman can suffer from more frequent infections. Risks to the fetus include miscarriage and stillbirth.
Thalassemia is a type of anemia that occurs most often in people of Mediterranean descent. The body doesn't produce enough globulin, which makes up red blood cells, and anemia results. If you have a family history of thalassemia, discuss it with your doctor.