During pregnancy, blood production increases in your body since you are carrying a baby in the womb. So the demand for the production of red blood cells (RBC) is also increased. In a few pregnant women, a sufficient amount of RBC cannot be produced due to various reasons leading to anemia. This article explores the cause, symptoms, and treatment involved in anemia during pregnancy.

What is the cause behind anemia during pregnancy?
         During pregnancy you breathe for two, you as well as the baby in the womb. So the body needs extra oxygen and to carry this extra oxygen, extra RBCs are required. At times, additional RBC cannot be produced and the body utilizes the stored ones resulting in anemia. In some pregnant women, iron is not absorbed properly in the body during pregnancy, though medication and iron-rich diet are taken resulting in anemia. Folic acid and Vitamin B12 deficiency also result in anemia since both are required for the production of iron.

Who are at risk of having it?
         Women with the following conditions are at the risk of having anemia during pregnancy:
(1) History of anemia or heavy periods before pregnancy
(2) Twin pregnancy
(3) Having food that doesn’t have sufficient iron or vitamin
(4) Being pregnant again within a year of the previous pregnancy
(5) Pregnant women under the age of 20

What are the symptoms that can indicate anemia during pregnancy?
         Some women experience no symptoms at all and are diagnosed only through lab tests. However few present with symptoms such as generalized tiredness, palpitations(feeling a high and fast heartbeat), trouble sleeping, fainting, dizziness, hair loss, difficulty in breathing, recurrent infections, and Leg swelling. Few patients would mostly present with clinical signs such as pale eyelids, lips, skin, and brittle nails.

What are the complications that can occur if left untreated?
         Pregnant women with anemia have a risk of having miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature birth. They are also at great risk of having an infection, heavy bleeding, high blood pressure and heart failure during labor. Studies have also shown that anemia results in low milk supply and affects breastfeeding and can also deep vein thrombosis in post partum period. In rare cases, it also leads to placental abruption where the placenta gets separated from the uterus in the womb. It also results in low birth weight in babies and there is a risk for the baby to likely experience anemia in their first three months of life.

How can you prevent anemia during pregnancy?
(1) Take iron-rich foods such as meat(Mutton liver), chicken, fish, beans, peas, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, legumes and pulses, oranges, berries like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, cereals, egg, dried fruits, and raisins.
(2) Take folic acid and iron supplements regularly as prescribed by your doctor. Sometimes you will also be prescribed multi vitamins medications if necessary. Vitamin C supplements might also be prescribed since they help with the absorption of iron in the body.
(3) Check your hemoglobin levels routinely as suggested by your healthcare provider.

In severe cases, treatment involves giving iron through IV or even a blood transfusion may be done if required. If none of the treatment options work out, it is important that you get tested to see if you have any other blood disorders