A mother-to-be has more blood in the body than in normal cases. This means that more iron will be necessary to be able to make more hemoglobin for the increased blood amount. The hemoglobin will also be needed for the baby’s blood and for the placenta as well. Anemia during pregnancy occurs as some mothers do not have enough iron to make the required hemoglobin especially during the last two of the pregnancy trimesters and, at this point, they become anemic.
This situation is made worse by the following factors:
- Being pregnant with more than one baby.
- Heavy menstrual flow prior to the pregnancy.
- You have carried pregnancies too close to one another.
- Severe morning sickness that may cause vomiting.
- Diet poor in iron.
Since it is not easy to have sufficient iron from diet alone it is recommended that pregnant mothers get anemia supplements. Mothers will get iron from prenatal supplements. The lack of enough iron in the blood is not the only cause of anemia.
Anemia can also be caused by deficiency of vitamin B12 or folic acid, excessive blood loss or inherited blood disorders inherited down the family line such as sickle cell anemia.
The cause of anemia during pregnancy will determine its treatment. Iron supplements may not always be the solution.
How can a mother know she is anemic?
During your initial prenatal visit the doctor will test your blood for anemia. Since the risk of getting anemia during pregnancy is spread all through the term, your doctor will test for anemia in later stages mostly in the last stages of the pregnancy second trimester and as the third trimester begins.
In normal circumstances levels of hematocrit and hemoglobin will drop after 20 weeks of pregnancy while plasma level goes up. These levels should not be allowed to drop too much.
You may not experience any signs for you anemic condition particularly where it is not very serious. There are some signs generally experienced by pregnant women such as fatigue, dizziness and feeling weak. These may be indicators of anemia as well.
Your finger nails, lips and the inside of the eyelids may appear pale than normal. Other symptoms are heart beating rapidly, palpitations of the heart, breath shortness, being easily irritated, having headaches and finding it hard to concentrate.
There are some women who have a craving for non food items such as clay. Studies have linked this craving to anemia.
Treatment of anemia caused by lack of iron
Once you are diagnosed with anemia, your doctor will prescribe iron supplements whose dose will vary with the seriousness of the problem. These supplements should be taken alongside the prenatal supplements and you should adhere to the doctor’s instructions.
The iron supplements should be taken on an empty stomach for the maximum absorption of iron. Wash them down with either water or orange juice. Avoid milk, coffee or tea which interferes with the absorption of iron. In a few months you will be able to correct your anemic situation. Keep iron tablets away from children as iron overdose can be fatal.