Anemia during pregnancy: causes, symptoms, and treatment

Anemia is a condition in which there is a decrease in the number of red blood cells, and anemia during pregnancy is determined by performing routine pregnancy tests.

Anemia during pregnancy: causes, symptoms, and treatment

Hemoglobin is one of the main proteins in red blood cells, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and helps remove carbon dioxide.

Non-pregnant women develop anemia when the number of red blood cells is less than 12 milligrams per 100 cubic centimeters, while pregnant women develop anemia when the number of red blood cells is less than 10-11 milligrams per 100 cubic centimeters.

Symptoms of anemia during pregnancy

Symptoms of anemia differ from one woman to another, and some women may not have any symptoms, while others may have symptoms, as follows:

  • Tired.
  • Vertigo.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • pallor in the face;

Causes and risk factors for anemia during pregnancy

Causes of anemia during pregnancy include:

Increase blood fluidity

During pregnancy, the mother's blood volume increases by 50% due to the increase in the volume of blood fluid (plasma), which leads to a decrease in the concentration of red cells. Anemia due to this reason is not medically important because red blood cells increase.

Iron deficiency

Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin in red blood cells, and a woman's body contains about 2 grams of iron or approximately two-thirds of the amount of iron contained 

within red cells, while a quarter is stored in a protein called ferritin, and the rest of iron is found in muscles and enzymes.

A normal pregnancy requires one gram of iron, of which half a gram is used to produce new red cells, a third of a gram is used for the fetus and placenta, and the rest is lost through the skin, feces, urine, and hemorrhage at the time of delivery.

Milk production when breastfeeding also requires iron. The amount of iron required during pregnancy is greater than the amount in the diet. 

To secure an adequate amount of iron, a diet containing 800 calories per day is required. Therefore, the process of childbirth and lactation may lead to iron deficiency.

other reasons

These include low levels of folate and low levels of vitamin B12.

Complications of anemia during pregnancy

In addition to the symptoms that anemia may cause during pregnancy, in some cases, it may cause premature birth.

Diagnosis of anemia during pregnancy

The doctor sets certain dates during which the blood levels of the pregnant woman are checked to diagnose anemia.

Treatment of anemia during pregnancy

Treatment of gestational anemia is determined according to its causes and severity. Treatment may include the following:

add iron

The usual treatment of anemia is through taking iron supplements, starting in the second trimester of pregnancy, and the supplements can be taken several times a day.

Side effects of iron supplementation include nausea, constipation, and stool discoloration. Optimal absorption of iron is achieved when taken at least half an hour before a meal.

The need for iron rises during pregnancy and reaches about 7 milligrams per day, and the quality of absorption in the intestine increases during pregnancy, as it increases in an acidic environment; Therefore, citrus juice that contains vitamin C improves iron absorption.

Take folic acid

Folic acid is an essential vitamin in the production of red blood cells and is found in leafy vegetables, liver, and pistachios.

The need for folic acid increases during pregnancy while its absorption in the intestine decreases; Therefore, it is preferable to add it during pregnancy.

Most iron supplements contain folic acid, and it is best to start taking it three months before the planned pregnancy. Because its presence in the blood at a high rate relieves fetal abnormalities.

Prevention of anemia during pregnancy

Anemia during pregnancy can be prevented by the following:

Eat a balanced diet

This is before and during pregnancy and lactation, as this helps prevent and avoid anemia, and helps mobilize iron stores in the body.

Many foods contain iron, such as the following:

  • liver;
  • meat.
  • fish.
  • cabbage;
  • legumes;

Whole wheat products.

Take iron and folic acid supplements

This is done in amounts according to the doctor's recommendations, and women suffering from anemia should continue to take the supplement for several additional months even after the hemoglobin level returns to the normal level. 

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