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Anemia in Pregnancy

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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 if you:

  • Are pregnant with multiples (more than one child)
  • Have had two pregnancies close together
  • Vomit a lot because of morning sickness
  • Are a pregnant teenager
  • Don't eat enough foods that are rich in iron
  • Had anemia 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
  • Dizziness
  • 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.

Risks of Anemia in Pregnancy

Severe or untreated iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy can increase your risk of having:

  • A preterm or low-birth-weight baby
  • A blood transfusion (if you lose a significant amount of blood during delivery)
  • Postpartum depression
  • A baby with anemia
  • A child with developmental delays

Untreated folate deficiency can increase your risk of having a:

  • Preterm or low-birth-weight baby
  • Baby with a serious birth defect of the spine or brain (neural tube defects)

Untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can also raise your risk of having a baby with neural tube defects.

Tests for Anemia

During your first prenatal appointment, you'll get a blood test so your doctor can check whether you have anemia. Blood tests typically include:

  • Hemoglobin test. It measures the amount of hemoglobin -- an iron-rich protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to tissues in the body.
  • Hematocrit test. It measures the percentage of red blood cells in a sample of blood.

If you have lower than normal levels of hemoglobin or hematocrit, you may have iron-deficiency anemia. Your doctor may check other blood tests to determine if you have iron deficiency or another cause for your anemia.

Even if you don't have anemia at the beginning of your pregnancy, your doctor will most likely recommend that you get another blood test to check for anemia in your second or third trimester.

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