Anemia is a condition where a person does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. When a person is anemic, the blood is not able to properly carry oxygen throughout the body. During pregnancy, a woman's blood volume increases dramatically in order to support the growing fetus, and this increase in blood volume makes developing anemia during pregnancy common.
Continue reading to learn more about the different types of anemia a woman may experience during pregnancy, as well as how anemia is often treated to prevent serious complications for the expectant mother and the baby.
Common Symptoms of Anemia During Pregnancy
A lot of women have not experienced anemia prior to pregnancy, so a pregnant woman might not know the symptoms. If you're pregnant, be aware that the following symptoms may indicate that you are anemic:
- Chest pain
- Cold feet and hands
- Difficulty concentrating
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Noticeably pale skin, nails, or lips
- Shortness of breath
Let your doctor know as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of these symptoms so blood tests can be done and a course of treatment can be determined.
Folate is a naturally occurring B vitamin that plays a major role in the production of healthy red blood cells. Foods that are rich in folate include dark leafy greens and liver. Because the body is not able to store large amounts of folate, many women develop folate-deficiency anemia during pregnancy.
In addition to helping a woman's body produce healthy red blood cells, folate is also extremely important to the development of the growing fetus. If a woman suffers from extreme folate-deficiency anemia during pregnancy, her baby can be at an increased risk for serious birth defects, such spina bifida.
Many pregnant women are not able to consume enough folate, which is why most doctors recommend that women take a folic acid supplement during pregnancy in addition to increasing the consumption of folate-rich foods. Many prenatal vitamins include folic acid, but your doctor may recommend a higher dose of folic acid if you're folate deficient.
Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Anemia
Vitamin B-12 is another compound that is vital to the production of red blood cells. Like folate, vitamin B-12 is also necessary for the healthy development of a fetus. A lack of vitamin B-12 during pregnancy can cause complications like preterm labor or neural tube defects in the baby. Large amounts of vitamin B-12 are found in meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs. These foods should be consumed during pregnancy.
If you do not consume enough food rich in vitamin B-12, you will need to take a supplement to ensure that you and your baby get enough of this vitamin. Your doctor will be able to determine how deficient you are in vitamin B-12, and then he or she will recommend a daily dosage that will help you maintain a healthy level of B-12.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia in pregnant women. Iron is an essential mineral found in red blood cells. If your body lacks iron, your red blood cells can't efficiently oxygenate your body. In cases of mild iron deficiency anemia, the issue may be able to be treated with nutrition. Consuming foods high in iron, such as liver, clams, oysters, cooked beef, spinach, or beans, can increase the amount of iron in your blood.
In many cases, pregnant women are not able to reverse iron deficiency anemia with diet alone. Depending on the severity of your anemia, your doctor might recommend a daily iron supplement. In extremely severe cases, I.V. iron transfusions or a blood transfusion may be necessary.
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