Iron-deficiency anaemia is basically a reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. The red blood cells in your body contain haemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout your body. In iron deficiency, the body cannot make healthy red blood cells or keep your haemoglobin at the right level.
Iron-Deficiency Anaemia in Pregnancy:
During pregnancy, your body needs more iron as your blood is nourishing your baby as well. The amount of blood in your body increases by almost 50%. You need the extra iron for your growing baby and placenta, especially in the second and third trimesters.
Many women start their pregnancy with insufficient stores of iron. If you have had heavy bleeding during your periods, or have been on a diet low in iron-rich foods and low vitamin-C-foods you could be at greater risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy.
Risks of having Anaemia:
You could also be at a greater risk if you are younger than 20 years of age; if there has been only a short gap between this pregnancy and your last one, or if you had heavy bleeding during your last delivery.
Other risk factors are if you are in the habit of eating too many foods or drinks that reduce iron absorption (like dairy products, foods containing soy, coffee and tea). You could also be at greater risk if you have had gastric bypass surgery, or have an intestinal disease that affects the absorption of iron or are on medication that affects the way your body absorbs iron from food.
Symptoms of Mild Anaemia:
In mild anaemia, there are hardly any symptoms. Sometimes fatigue and excessive tiredness may occur but these symptoms might be missed out on as they are common to a normal pregnancy too. Other symptoms could be a
- Shortness Of Breath
- Light-headedness Or Dizziness
- Palpitations And Chest Pains
- Leg Cramps
- Pallor Of The Face And Nails
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Spoon-shaped Nails
- Glossy Tongue And Cracks In The Corners Of Your Mouth
At your first prenatal appointment, your doctor will take a detailed medical history and test your blood for anaemia. As a preventive, your doctor will probably recommend a prenatal vitamin with about 30 mg of iron. This should be sufficient. Take additional supplements only if the doctor prescribes them.
Red meat, poultry, and seafood are some of the best sources of iron. Eat a variety of iron-rich foods every day. You can also get iron from legumes, vegetables, and grains.
Include a source of vitamin C (like orange juice, strawberries, or broccoli) with every meal, especially when eating vegetarian sources of iron, like beans – the vitamin C can help you absorb up to six times more iron. Avoid coffee and tea, soy foods and spinach, as these can inhibit iron absorption.
Greater risks of Iron-Deficiency Anaemia:
Iron-deficiency anaemia is associated with a greater risk of preterm delivery, having a low-birth-weight baby, and fetal or newborn death.
If you're anaemic when you give birth, you're more likely to need a transfusion and have other problems if you lose a lot of blood at delivery. There is also some association between maternal iron deficiency and postpartum depression.
If your doctor prescribes iron supplements, take them one hour before or two hours after meals because iron is absorbed most easily on an empty stomach. Taking the supplement with orange juice – which is high in iron-enhancing vitamin C – can boost absorption. Don't take your iron pill with milk, coffee, or tea because these can interfere with iron absorption.
Calcium also hinders iron absorption, so if your doctor has recommended you take both an iron and a calcium supplement (or antacids that contain calcium), space them out during the day. Also, space out with other medications like drugs for thyroid treatment.
Your baby will absorb his needs of iron from what is available in the blood before you do. However, if you are severely anaemic it may compromise your baby's iron stores at birth, raising his risk for anaemia later in infancy and possibly hurting his growth and cognitive development.
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