Your body goes through significant changes when you
become pregnant. The amount of blood in your body increases by about
20-30 percent, which increases the supply of iron and vitamins that the
body needs to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood
cells that carries oxygen to other cells in your body.
Many women lack the sufficient amount of iron needed
for the second and third trimesters. When your body needs more iron
than it has available, you can become anemic.
Mild anemia is normal during pregnancy due to an
increase in blood volume. More severe anemia, however, can put your
baby at higher risk for anemia later in infancy. In addition, if you
are significantly anemic during your first two trimesters, you are at
greater risk for having a pre-term delivery or low-birth-weight baby.
Being anemic also burdens the mother by increasing the risk of blood
loss during labor and making it more difficult to fight infections.
Am I at Risk?
You are at higher risk for becoming anemic during
your pregnancy if you:
- Have two pregnancies close together
- Are pregnant with more than one child
- Are vomiting frequently due to morning sickness
- Do not consume enough iron
- Have a heavy pre-pregnancy menstrual flow
Many of the symptoms of anemia during pregnancy are
also symptoms you may experience even if you are not anemic; these
- Feeling tired or weak
- Progressive paleness of the skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble concentrating
Doctors typically perform several tests to check the
percentage of red blood cells in your plasma
and the amount of hemoglobin in your blood. These are indicators of
whether you are at risk for becoming anemic.
Is Pregnancy-Related Anemia Preventable?
Good nutrition is the best way to prevent anemia if
you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Eating foods high in
iron content (such as dark green leafy vegetables, red meat, fortified
cereals, eggs, and peanuts) can help ensure that you maintain the
supply of iron your body needs to function properly. Your obstetrician
will also prescribe vitamins to ensure that you have enough iron and
folic acid. Make sure you get at least 27 mg of iron each day. If you
do become anemic during your pregnancy, it can usually be treated by
taking iron supplements.
Ask your doctor about your risk for anemia and make
sure you are tested at your first prenatal visit. You also may want to
get tested four to six weeks after delivery. Depending on your
condition, your doctor may refer you to a hematologist, a doctor who
specializes in blood conditions.
Where Can I Find More Information?
If you find that you are interested in
learning more about blood diseases and disorders, here are a few other
resources that may be of some help:
From Hematology, the ASH Education Program Book
The American Society of Hematology (ASH) Education Book, updated
yearly by experts in the field, is a collection of articles about the
current treatment options available to patients. The articles are
categorized here by disease type. If you are interested in learning
more about a particular blood disease, we encourage you to share and
discuss these articles with your doctor.
Clinical Studies Published in Blood
Search Blood, the official journal of ASH, for the
results of the latest blood research. While recent articles generally
require a subscriber login, patients interested in viewing an
access-controlled article in Blood may obtain a copy by
e-mailing a request to the Blood
This section includes a list of Web links to patient groups and
other organizations that provide information.
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