Anemia in pregnancy stage. In the case of anemia, the hemoglobin level in the blood is too low. Hemoglobin is an iron-containing substance in the red blood cells. It ensures the transport of oxygen through the blood. The hemoglobin value is expressed as a number that indicates the amount of hemoglobin per liter of blood.
The hemoglobin level for women is normally between 7.5 and 10 millimoles per liter. During pregnancy, the hemoglobin level in the blood always decreases. This is why anemia only occurs during pregnancy if the hemoglobin level is lower than approximately 6.8 millimoles per liter. It may be slightly lower for black women.
Symptoms anemia in pregnancy
If you have anemia, you may have the following symptoms and symptoms:
- a light feeling in the head
- black spots for the eyes
- the feeling of fainting easily
- pale skin color
- a feeling of stuffiness
- a feeling of shortness of breath
- feeling sick
- no energy
- susceptible to infections
How does anemia develop during pregnancy?
The hemoglobin value decreases during pregnancy. That is normal. It is the result of an increase in the amount of blood in combination with a changed blood composition. We, therefore, speak of anemia in pregnancy only if the hemoglobin level is lower than approximately 6.8 millimoles per liter. This is usually caused by an iron deficiency.
Normal decrease in hemoglobin The decrease during pregnancy is caused by the amount of blood in your body increases by one liter and the composition of it changes. Blood consists of blood cells and blood plasma (the blood fluid in which the cells are).
During pregnancy, the amount of blood plasma in particular increases. The number of red blood cells is also increasing, but not as strong as the blood plasma. In proportion, the number of red blood cells per liter of blood therefore decreases. This also applies to the hemoglobin that is in the red blood cells.
Anemia: Red blood cells are added during pregnancy. Because red blood cells contain hemoglobin, your body must therefore also produce more hemoglobin. An important building block of hemoglobin is iron. Your child also needs iron to make its own blood and extracts it from your blood via the mother cake. You, therefore, need a lot of iron during pregnancy.
If you get too little iron through your diet, there will be a shortage. There is not enough iron to give every blood cell enough iron. The consequence of this is that every red blood cell receives less iron than necessary. Because iron is needed for the production of hemoglobin, iron deficiency means that every red blood cell contains less hemoglobin than normal. This reduces hemoglobin value.
An important substance in the production of red blood cells is folic acid. Sometimes a deficiency can occur due to insufficient folic acid in the diet (for example with strict lines). This can also cause anemia.
Is it serious and what can you expect?
Because of the anemia, you do not feel fit and low in energy. Mild anemia (between 6.5 and 6.8 millimoles per liter) is not serious for you and your child. If the hemoglobin value falls even further, sufficient oxygen can no longer be transported. Your symptoms increase and the supply of oxygen to your child decreases, causing growth retardation and developmental disorders. Therefore, anemia must be detected and treated.
Checking for anemia: Because anemia occurs fairly frequently during pregnancy, your obstetrician, doctor or gynecologist who supervises your pregnancy will be alert to this. During the pregnancy check your blood will be checked for anemia a number of times as standard. This happens with 12, 24 and sometimes 36 weeks of pregnancy.
In some cases, it is also checked with 30 weeks. Sometimes this is done with a finger prick, otherwise, you have to have blood sampled at a collection laboratory. If there is evidence of anemia between the standard checks, the blood may be additionally checked for anemia.
Treatment for Anemia in pregnancy stage
Anemia can be treated very well with extra iron in the form of tablets, the so-called steel pills. The iron supply is thus replenished and the red blood cells are again provided with sufficient iron to make hemoglobin. The oxygen transport is thus secured. If there is a shortage of folic acid, this can also be supplemented with medication.
Side effects: The main side effect of steel pills is that they can cause a blockage (constipation). For some people, steel tablets actually lead to diarrhea. Another annoying side effect that sometimes occurs is nausea. However, most people tolerate steel pills well. It is quite normal for your stools to turn darker to black when using steel pills.
Alternatives to steel pills: If you have a mild form of anemia and the steel pills are poorly tolerated, the midwife may advise you to use other iron sources as an alternative to the steel pills. These can be iron-enriched fruit juices, herbal elixirs or multivitamin preparations. Sometimes iron levels in the blood can also arise as a result. It is better not to use such drugs on your own initiative, always consult your obstetrician or gynecologist first.
When to the doctor?
If you recognize the symptoms of anemia in yourself, you can discuss this with the doctor, obstetrician or gynecologist who supervises your pregnancy. This can then check the hemoglobin level. Because anemia occurs fairly frequently during pregnancy, your counselor will also be alert to signs of anemia and, by default, test your blood two or three times for signs of it.
What can you do about it yourself?
Promoting iron intake If you have actually developed anemia, you will need to take steel pills to ensure that the anemia disappears. Iron is best absorbed by the body in combination with vitamin C. Take the steel pills with, for example, orange juice. Do this half an hour before breakfast. Do not drink milk at breakfast, because milk actually inhibits the intake of the steel pills.
Preventing clogging (constipation) To prevent clogging as a result of the steel pills, it is important to drink enough (at least two liters of fluid per day), eat enough fiber (whole-grain products) and exercise regularly (walking, cycling, swimming).
General advice and precautions for Anemia in pregnancy
By using iron-rich foods you can reduce the risk of anemia in pregnancy. Products that contain a lot of iron include:
- tomato juice
- (cashew nuts
- Whole grain bread
- dried fruit (apricots)
- bean curd
- brown rice
- Apple syrup
- dark chocolate
- green vegetables
Promote iron intake: Combine these iron-rich products with products that contain vitamin C, such as orange juice and other fruit. Vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron. Do not drink milk or tea with food; they inhibit the absorption of iron. Therefore, drink the milk that is needed in the middle of the morning, in the afternoon or in the evening.
See also, Perfect diet for pregnancy
Multivitamins: A multivitamin preparation can also help to increase iron levels and get more energy. Special multivitamin preparations are for sale for pregnant women. Before using such preparation, consult with the person who is supervising your pregnancy. When you use pregnancy vitamins, you should not also use another vitamin preparation, certainly not vitamin A.
Points for attention for vegetarians: Even if you eat vegetarian food and therefore do not eat meat that contains a lot of iron, you are extra sensitive to develop anemia. It is important that you use other foods with a lot of iron. Under the heading What can you do about it yourself? read more about that.
Reporting: If you normally already suffer from anemia, you are extra sensitive to develop anemia during pregnancy. Also report this to the obstetrician, doctor or gynecologist who supervises your pregnancy. Carefully follow the aforementioned precautions.