What is Pregnancy Anaemia and How to Avoid It

Pregnancy anaemia means the blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to tissues and the baby during pregnancy. All pregnant women, including women taking PCOS treatment in Chennai are at risk of becoming anaemic. The mother’s body produces more blood to support the baby’s growth. Insufficient red blood cells due to lack of iron or certain other nutrients in the mother’s body can interfere with the making of additional blood. Mild anaemia during pregnancy is considered normal, but untreated severe anaemia can lead to a risk of complications like preterm delivery. Routine blood tests at prenatal appointments can check for anaemia and take measures to avoid it.

Causes of pregnancy anaemia

During pregnancy, especially the last trimester, the body makes more red blood cells to supply enough for the baby. Iron is used as the core of every red blood cell. Iron has to be absorbed by the body from foods that are eaten and cannot be produced by the body. Many foods are good sources of iron, but it is hard to absorb, making it difficult for the body to get sufficient amounts of iron that can meet the need during pregnancy. Folate is another nutrient needed to make healthy blood cells, but folate is easily absorbed from foods such as green vegetables. Fewer red blood cells are made when the diet does not provide enough iron, causing pregnancy anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common type, but it is easy to prevent or correct.

Two main reasons for anaemia during pregnancy are:

– Poor intake of food rich in iron and folate.

– Increased rate of red blood cells being destroyed can occasionally occur during illness.

It is not uncommon for women with PCOS to present with excessive blood loss from an episode of heavy and prolonged bleeding. Hence there is an additional risk for anaemia during pregnancy in women with irregular menses and heavy bleeding from PCOS.

Types of pregnancy anaemia

Though the most common type of anaemia in pregnant women is iron deficiency anaemia, the cause can vary with different types of anaemia.

  • Iron-deficiency anaemia occurs when the body does not get enough iron to produce adequate amounts of a red blood cell protein called haemoglobin. Haemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron deficiency does not provide enough oxygen in the blood to be carried to tissues throughout the body, leading to various symptoms of anaemia.
  • Folate-deficiency anaemia is the deficiency of folate, a vitamin needed to produce new healthy red blood cells. Folate is a type of B vitamin found naturally in certain foods like green leafy vegetables. Women need increased amounts of folate during pregnancy. If they don’t get enough folate from their diet, the body cannot make enough normal red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissues throughout the body. Folate deficiency during pregnancy can directly contribute to certain congenital disabilities, such as neural tube abnormalities (spina bifida) and low birth weight in the developing baby. Supplements of folate are prescribed as folic acid during pregnancy.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia occurs when pregnant women don’t get enough vitamin B12 from their diet. Vitamin B12 is essential to produce enough healthy red blood cells. There is a greater risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia in pregnant women who don’t eat meat, poultry, dairy products and eggs as part of PCOS control

Risk Factors for pregnancy anaemia

There is a risk for anaemia in many pregnant women because they need more iron and folic acid than usual. However, the risk is higher if the woman is:

– With multiple pregnancy like twins/ triplets

– having pregnancies close together

– vomits a lot because of morning sickness

– A pregnant teenager

– having an eating disorder like anorexia

– been having anaemia before pregnancy

Symptoms of pregnancy anaemia

Early stages of anaemia in pregnancy may not show any apparent symptoms. It is easy not to notice the signs of anaemia as they are primarily similar to pregnancy symptoms even without anaemia. The most common symptoms of anaemia during pregnancy are:

– Pale appearance of skin, lips and nails

– Tiredness or weakness throughout

– Feeling dizzy

– Shortness of breath

– Rapid heartbeat

– Inability to concentrate

Blood tests done on routine as in PCOS clinic in Chennai is the only way to prevent anaemia in pregnancy.

How to avoid pregnancy anaemia

To prevent anaemia from developing complications during pregnancy, getting enough iron into the body is essential. Well-balanced meals and eating more foods high in iron are the best ways of adding iron through diet. At least three servings of iron-rich foods in a day should be ideal. Iron-rich foods to include are:

– Lean meat, fish and eggs

– Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale

– Cereals and grains enriched with iron

– Plant proteins such as beans, lentils and tofu

– Nuts and seeds

Iron absorption from foods can be increased by eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C at the same time while eating iron-rich foods. Foods high in vitamin C are citrus fruits and juices, different types of berries, kiwis, tomatoes and peppers.

Folate deficiency anaemia during pregnancy can be avoided by choosing foods high in folate. 

These include:

– Green leafy vegetables

– Citrus fruits and juices

– Dried beans like kidney beans, pigeon eye beans etc.

– Folic acid fortified bread and cereals

Vegetarians and vegans should discuss taking vitamin B12 supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Since PCOS may cause iron-deficiency anaemia in women affected by heavy periods, gynaecologists for PCOS treatment in Chennai instruct on taking prenatal vitamins and supplements containing sufficient iron and folic acid.

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