Anemia in Pregnancy
When you're pregnant, you may develop anemia. When you have anemia, your blood doesn't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues.
During pregnancy, your body produces more blood to support the growth of your baby. If you're not getting enough iron or certain other nutrients, your body might not be able to produce the amount of red blood cells it needs to make this additional blood.
It's normal to have mild anemia when you are pregnant. But you may have more severe anemia from low iron or vitamin levels or from other reasons.
Anemia can leave you feeling tired and weak. If significant and untreated, it can increase your risk of serious complications like preterm delivery.
Here's what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of anemia during pregnancy.
Types of Anemia During Pregnancy
Several types of anemia can develop during pregnancy. These include:
Here's why these types of anemia may develop:
Iron-deficiency anemia. This type of anemia occurs when the body doesn't have enough iron to produce adequate amounts of hemoglobin. That's a protein in red blood cells. It carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
In iron-deficiency anemia, the blood cannot carry enough oxygen to tissues throughout the body.
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia in pregnancy.
Folate-deficiency anemia. Folate, also called folic acid, is a type of B vitamin. The body needs folate to produce new cells, including healthy red blood cells.
During pregnancy, women need extra folate. But sometimes they don't get enough from their diet. When that happens, the body can't make enough normal red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissues throughout the body.
Folate deficiency can directly contribute to certain types of birth defects.
Vitamin B12 deficiency. The body needs vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells. When a pregnant woman doesn't get enough vitamin B12 from her diet, her body can't produce enough healthy red blood cells. Women who don't eat meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs have a greater risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency, which may contribute to birth defects.
Blood loss during and after delivery can also cause anemia.
Risk Factors for Anemia in Pregnancy
All pregnant women are at risk for becoming anemic. That's because they need more iron and folic acid than usual. But the risk is higher in these situations:
- Pregnant with more than one child
- Two pregnancies close together
- Vomiting a lot because of morning sickness
- Teenager who is pregnant
- Don't eat enough foods that are rich in iron
- Heavy periods before you became pregnant
Symptoms of Anemia During Pregnancy
The most common symptoms of anemia during pregnancy are:
- Pale skin, lips, and nails
- Feeling tired or weak
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Trouble concentrating
In the early stages of anemia, you may not have obvious symptoms. And many of the symptoms are ones that you might have while pregnant even if you're not anemic. So be sure to get routine blood tests to check for anemia at your prenatal appointments.