Anemia in Pregnancy

Jan 8, 2024


― Dr. Nisha Aggarwal- Gynaecologist & Obstetrician‍

Anemia is when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. When your body doesn’t get enough oxygen from your blood, it can’t function properly. A person who has anemia during pregnancy is considered anemic.

The red blood cells (RBCs) contain an important protein called haemoglobin. This protein holds oxygen and helps your red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to your body. It also helps carry carbon dioxide from your body to your lungs so you can breathe it out.

To produce RBCs and haemoglobin, your body needs a consistent supply of iron and vitamins. It’s common for women to become anemic during pregnancy because they don’t have enough iron and other vitamins.

What are the different types of Anemia faced by Pregnant Women?

  • Iron-deficiency anemia, from a lack of iron.
  • Folate-deficiency anemia, from a lack of folic acid.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, from a lack of vitamin B12.

Who is most likely to have anemia during pregnancy?

  • Pregnant with multiples.
  • Not consuming enough iron.
  • Having back-to-back pregnancies with minimal time between.
  • Experiencing a heavy menstrual flow before pregnancy.
  • Vomiting often because of morning sickness.

What causes anemia during pregnancy?

  • Pregnancy itself is a cause of anemia because of the increase in blood volume. Other causes of anemia during pregnancy include not consuming enough iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid.
  • Other causes of anemia that occur in nonpregnant people can also cause anemia during pregnancy:
  • Certain diseases, including sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.
  • Donating blood.
  • Heavy menstrual flow (before pregnancy).
  • Ulcers and polyps.

What are the symptoms of anemia during pregnancy?

  • Fatigue.
  • Cold.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Other symptoms include:
  • Dizziness or weakness.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Headache.
  • Pale, dry or easily bruised skin.
  • Sore tongue
  • Unintended movement in the lower leg (restless legs syndrome).

Is it normal to be anemic during pregnancy?

Yes. Because blood volume increases during pregnancy, mild anemia is normal. Iron deficiency is common in pregnancy, with up to 52% of pregnant women in developing countries not getting enough iron. Severe anemia is not typical.

Both mild and severe anemia, however, require treatment to protect the health of you and the fetus.

How does anemia affect the baby during pregnancy?

The developing fetus relies on you to get enough iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid. Anemia can affect the growth of the fetus, especially during the first trimester.

If anemia goes untreated, your baby is at higher risk of having anemia after birth, which can lead to developmental problems. Also, anemia increases the risk of delivering your baby early and having a low-weight baby.