Anaemia is a medical condition caused by the deficiency of healthy red blood cells in the blood. It is a common issue among expectant women. When pregnant, body produces excess amount of blood to supply nutrients required to nurture the growing baby. The increase in blood requires increased amount of iron, folate and vitamin B 12, the deficiency of which leads to anaemia in pregnant women.
Three types of anaemia are common among going-to-be mommies are Iron deficiency anaemia, folate deficiency anaemia and vitamin B 12 deficiency anaemia. The symptoms amomg anaemic pregnant women include – Paleness of skin, lips and nails, weakness and tiredness, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, headache, craving for strange inedible things like brick, chalk etc
Anaemia can become severe amongst women -who are strictly vegan, women carrying multiples, have had two pregnancies close together, experience heavy menstrual flow and suffer from nausea frequently.
Anaemia could be easily treated by taking iron supplements in the fom of tablets. Folic acid supplements and vitamin B 12 supplements are also given to anaemic women. A diet rich in dairy, poultry, fish, meat and greens is advised to be taken by pregnant mothers.
Iron supplements could lead to constipation and irregular bowel movements. Drinking lots of fluid, and eating fibre rich food could tackle the problem to a great extent.
What is anaemia?
Anaemia is a condition in which the blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells or the red blood cells do not have enough haemoglobin. In either case the cells in our body do not get the required amount of oxygen.
Why are pregnant women more likely to get anaemia?
The body of an expecting mother naturally produces excess amount of blood (nearly 50% more) to help provide nutrients to the growing fetus. Making extra blood cells requires plenty of iron, folate, and vitamin B12 to make the extra haemoglobin needed. Hence many women become anaemic during pregnancy unless they take in iron supplements.
Other factors contributing to anaemia during pregnancy include:
* Carrying multiples.
* Having two pregnancies close together.
* Having heavy menstrual flow before pregnancy.
* Frequently experiencing nausea.
* And being strictly vegan.
Types of anaemia an expectant woman encounters:
Iron deficiency anaemia
This happens when the body does not have enough iron to produce adequate amounts of haemoglobin. In such case , the blood can not carry enough oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia in pregnancy.
Folate deficiency anaemia
Folate is a vitamin which helps to synthesise new cells, including red blood cell. Pregnancy increases the demand for extra folate, the deficiency of which leads to anaemia.
Vitamin B 12 deficiency
The body needs vitamin B 12 to form healthy red blood cells. When a pregnant woman does not get enough vitamin B 12 from her diet, her body cannot produce enough red blood cells.
Symptoms of Anaemia in Pregnancy
Paleness of skin, lips and nails
You look washed out. When you examine yourself in the mirror, you would notice that your natural glow has faded. There is a ghostly whiteness to your skin. The paleness happens because your blood vessels contain fewer red blood cells. General fatigue and morning sickness also contributes to this paleness.
Paleness of the mucosa of the inner, lower eyelid
In healthy women the inner lining of the lower eyelid is red or pinkish, but anaemic women have very light coloured mucosa with a tinge of redness.
Weakness and tiredness
Expectant mothers generally feel tired and worn out due to the hormone rush and other changes in the body during pregnancy. As a result this sign of anaemia goes unnoticed. Since symptoms of anaemia are not very noticeable, doctors suggest women to take a vitamin supplements with at least 30 mg of extra iron to protect against anaemia.
Shortness of breath is very much a part of anaemia. Even a small flight of stairs makes you winded. Your growing belly and anaemia can make your body feel overwhelmed and gasping for air. Breathlessness can make even small daily activities feel like running a marathon or climbing Mount Everest.
Palpitations or irregular heart beat
This is also called tachycardia. This heart skipping sensation could be really terrible. It makes you nervous and anxious. Rapid heart beat occurs when your growing fetus is not getting enough blood and oxygen to tissues throughout her body. Your heart tries to compensate the deficiency by pumping more blood, which leads to palpitations. You can also feel a feeble murmur in your heart when it is stressed out.
Dizziness and headache
Pregmant women experience a sensation of spinning otherwise called vertigo or dizziness when anaemic. Women feel like fainting and light headed. Headache is also very common in anaemic women.
Difficulty in concentrating
With dizziness, fatigue, headache and weakness anaemic pregnant women feel cofused and find it difficult to concentrate on anything.
Strange food cravings
As the body craves for iron, pregnant women can have strange cravings for inedible things like clay, brick ,chalk and dirt etc.
Treatment for Anaemia
* Iron supplements in the form of tablets- ferrous sulphate is commonly prescribed for pregnant women.
* Folic acid supplements are generally given in the first trimester.
* Vitamin B 12 supplements are also prescribed.
* A rich diet of animal products like eggs, fish, meat and milk are recommended to be taken. Lots of green leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains are also advised to be included in rhe diet.
* If the expectant mother’s iron level is dangerously low, injections of iron are prescribed or a transfusion of blood becomes necessary.
It is important to note that iron tablets cause constipation ,stomach upsets and change in color of your stools to black or dark green , so include fibre in your diet and also increase the intake of fluids to manage the side effects.
Most of the symptoms of anaemia are similar to the general symptoms of pregnancy. This similarity could sometimes lead to overlook the condition. Regular monthly prenatal check up is hence mandatory for all pregnant ladies. However, your practitioner would prescribe iron supplements in your general medication to guard you against anaemia.