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Anemia and Pregnancy

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What is anemia?

Anemia means you have low iron in your blood or “low blood.” Iron helps your red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Your body does not make iron and it must be absorbed from the foods that you eat. In the second half of pregnancy, your body makes more red blood cells so that there is enough for you and your baby. You are more at risk for anemia if you have severe morning sickness, two or more pregnancies close together, or are having more than one baby.

How can I prevent anemia in pregnancy? 

Here are some tips for preventing anemia:
  • Take a prenatal vitamin with iron and folate every day.
  • Eat red meats like lean beef and pork, chicken and fish because they are very high in iron.
  • Eat liver (not more than once a week).
  • Cooking in cast iron pots adds iron to food.
  • Citrus foods are high in vitamin C and help you absorb iron.
  • Fruits high in vitamin C are oranges, grapefruit and strawberries. Vegetables high in vitamln C are brussel sprouts, green peppers, and broccoli.
  • Foods high in iron are all beans and dried fruits like, prunes, apricots, figs, raisins, peaches, and dates.
  • Dark green or yellow vegetables, like collard greens, kale, spinach, and sweet potatoes are high in iron.
  • Egg yolks and whole fortified grains, like bran cereal, whole wheat bread and wheat germ are high in iron.

What are the symptoms of anemia?

Many times women with anemia have no symptoms. Anemia can make you feel very tired and have no energy. You may feel light-headed or dizzy and may “black out.”

How does anemia affect my baby?

Your baby depends on you for oxygen. If you have severe anemia, your baby may not get enough oxygen to grow well. The baby may be small at birth. Anemia may increase the chance that you will give birth early. If you have anemia and bleed heavily after the birth, you may need a blood transfusion.

What are the tests for anemia? treatment is available?

Your health care provider will test your blood for anemia at your first prenatal visit and again later in your pregnancy. A hematocrit test measures the percentage of red bloods cells in your plasma and a hemoglobin test measures the amount of iron rich protein in your blood.

What treatment is available?

 If you are anemic your health care provider might order an iron pill to take in addition to your prenatal vitamin.

Here are some tips for treating anemia:

  • Take vitamins and iron pills every day as your health care provider tells you to.
  • Do not take iron pills with milk. The calcium in the milk does not let the iron work well in your body.
  • Take your iron pill with juices that have vitamin C in them. Some examples are orange juice and tomato juice. This helps the iron get into your blood better.
  • Do not take antacids like Tums or Maalox at the same time you take iron pills. These can affect how your body uses the iron pills.
  • Iron pills can cause problems having a bowel movement. Eat more foods with fiber, like fruits, vegetables, and cereals. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.
  • Your bowel movements may turn dark black. This is normal.

A reassuring fact is that your body helps you by absorbing more iron from your food if your iron is "low".