Anaemia is characterised by the lack of healthy red blood cells in the body which carry oxygen to your tissues and to your baby. It is generally caused by a deficiency in any particular nutrient or even due to excessive blood loss due to menstruation or the occurrence of a polyp.
Fall in haemoglobin level is caused by a greater expansion of plasma volume compared to the increase in the volume of red blood cells. The disproportion between these rates of increase peaks in the second trimester.
The three most common types of anaemia that can occur in pregnant women are:
- Iron-deficiency anaemia – occurs when the body does not have enough iron to produce adequate amounts of haemoglobin, leading to the inability of the blood to carry enough oxygen to tissues throughout the body.
- Folate-deficiency anaemia – occurs due to the lack of folate or folic acid, a type of Vitamin-B necessary for making healthy RBCs.
If unchecked, this disorder could lead to birth defects like neural tube abnormalities (spina bifida) or low birth weight.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency – occurs when there is a lack of Vitamin-B12 that is needed to produce healthy red blood cells. This could also lead to spina bifida or preterm labour.
Pregnant mothers who are at most risk from anaemia would include mothers who are pregnant with multiples, who have had two pregnancies close to each other, those who vomit a lot because of morning sickness, teenage pregnancy, those who do not eat enough iron-rich foods, or who have had anaemia before becoming pregnant.
The most common symptoms of anaemia are as follows:
- Presence of pale skin, lips, and nails
- Feeling tired or weak
- Chest pain
- Cold hands and feet
- Shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat
- Trouble in concentration
Once a pregnant woman reports any of these symptoms, doctors would use either a haemoglobin test (measure the amount of haemoglobin in the blood) or a hematocrit test (measure the percentage of RBCs in a blood sample) to detect anaemia.
Mild anaemia is a rather common occurrence during pregnancy. It gets rectified with proper dietary supplements. However, just make sure that the vitamin or iron pills that one is being administered, is safe for use during pregnancy or during breastfeeding (for mothers suffering from anaemia after delivery). Folic acid supplements or iron supplements and vitamin supplements are commonly prescribed medicines during pregnancy.
In severe cases, anaemia is known to cause a preterm or low-birth-weight baby, a baby with bird defects like neural tube defects, need for blood transfusion in mothers during delivery, postpartum depression, and an anaemic new-born, or a child with developmental delays.
Anaemia can, however, be averted by following some basic dietary schemes:
- Eating, at least, three servings of iron-rich foods in a day
- Increasing consumption of lean meat, poultry, egg, and fish
- Increasing consumption of leafy, dark green vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli)
- Increasing consumption of iron-enriched cereals and grains
- Increasing consumption of beans, lentils, and tofu
- Increasing consumption of nuts and seeds
- Increasing consumption of food that is rich in Vitamin-C, as they help the body absorb more iron.
So citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes should be included in the diet.
- Also, increase consumption of folate-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, fortified bread and cereals, and dried beans