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Anemia in Pregnancy

Blood is the life-maintaining fluid that circulates through the body's heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries. It carries away waste matter and carbon dioxide, and brings nourishment, electrolytes, hormones, vitamins, antibodies, heat, and oxygen to the tissues.

What is anemia?

Anemia is a condition of too few red blood cells, or a lowered ability of the red blood cells to carry oxygen or iron. Tissue enzymes dependent on iron can affect cell function in nerves and muscles. The fetus is dependent on the mother's blood and anemia can cause poor fetal growth, preterm birth, and low birthweight.

What are the most common types of anemias to occur during pregnancy?

There are several types of anemias that may occur in pregnancy. These include:

What are the symptoms of anemia?

Women with anemia of pregnancy may not have obvious symptoms unless the cell counts are very low. The following are the most common symptoms of anemia. However, each woman may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of anemia may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is anemia diagnosed?

Anemia is usually discovered during a prenatal examination through a routine blood test for hemoglobin or hematocrit levels. Diagnostic procedures for anemia may include additional blood tests and other evaluation procedures.

Treatment for anemia:

Specific treatment for anemia will be determined by your physician based on:

Treatment depends on the type and severity of anemia. Treatment for iron deficiency anemia includes iron supplements. Some forms are time-released, while others must be taken several times each day. Taking iron with a citrus juice can help with the absorption into the body. Antacids may decrease absorption of iron. Iron supplements may cause nausea and cause stools to become dark greenish or black in color. Constipation may also occur with iron supplements.

Prevention of anemia:

Good pre-pregnancy nutrition not only helps prevent anemia, but also helps build other nutritional stores in the mother's body. Eating a healthy and balanced diet during pregnancy helps maintain the levels of iron and other important nutrients needed for the health of the mother and growing baby.

Good food sources of iron include the following:

The following is a list of foods that are a good source of iron. Always consult your physician regarding the recommended daily iron requirements.

Iron-Rich Foods

Quantity

Approximate Iron
Content (milligrams)

Oysters

3 ounces

13.2

Beef liver

3 ounces

7.5

Prune juice

1/2 cup

5.2

Clams

2 ounces

4.2

Walnuts

1/2 cup

3.75

Ground beef

3 ounces

3.0

Chickpeas

1/2 cup

3.0

Bran flakes

1/2 cup

2.8

Pork roast

3 ounces

2.7

Cashew nuts

1/2 cup

2.65

Shrimp

3 ounces

2.6

Raisins

1/2 cup

2.55

Sardines

3 ounces

2.5

Spinach

1/2 cup

2.4

Lima beans

1/2 cup

2.3

Kidney beans

1/2 cup

2.2

Turkey, dark meat

3 ounces

2.0

Prunes

1/2 cup

1.9

Roast beef

3 ounces

1.8

Green peas

1/2 cup

1.5

Peanuts

1/2 cup

1.5

Potato

1

1.1

Sweet potato

1/2 cup

1.0

Green beans

1/2 cup

1.0

Egg

1

1.0

Vitamin supplements containing 400 micrograms of folic acid are now recommended for all women of childbearing age and during pregnancy. These supplements are needed because natural food sources of folate are poorly absorbed and much of the vitamin is destroyed in cooking. Food sources of folate include the following:

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