Iron Prevents Anemia
Anemia is a condition in which you have too few red blood cells, requiring your body to boost its iron stores to help produce them (fig. 1). You can become anemic if you don't get enough of this important mineral. In your pre-pregnancy state, you needed a daily dose of about 15 milligrams of iron. Thanks to your growing fetus, you now require about 30.
How Is Anemia Diagnosed?
Your caregiver can spot anemia with a blood test, which she may give at your first prenatal visit. Most women pass this initial check for iron deficiency with flying colors. In fact, the majority of expectant mothers start off pregnancy with enough iron stores to last until week 20. At that point in your pregnancy, your blood volume increases tremendously and with the increased volume often the hemoglobin (part of the cell that carries the iron) in your blood stream drops. This can cause a dramatic drop and some doctors may recommend that you take an iron supplement earlier so that anemia can be prevented rather than diagnosing it and having to treat it afterwards.
What Are The Symptoms?
Since the symptoms related to anemia often occur normally as a result of pregnancy, it is often not easily identified from symptoms alone. However, the symptoms that accompany anemia include: feeling very tired all the time, shortness of breath, dizziness, and exhaustion.
Who's At Risk?
Women with severe nausea and vomiting early on in their pregnancy, carrying more than one baby, on an inadequate diet with no iron supplement, or who have had another baby relatively recent to this pregnancy are all at higher risk for anemia.
Effective treatment for anemia is generally taking an iron supplement orally. Women that are unable to tolerate oral iron will be given iron through their vein. Increasing the iron in your diet will also be encouraged. If the anemia is severe and was coupled with any kind of blood loss, then you might need a blood transfusion (this is unusual).
If you don't receive treatment for anemia while you are pregnant, there is a risk for premature labor and delivery. It is definitely more dangerous to you due to the normal blood loss that takes place during the delivery. If you are anemic and lose more blood during the delivery, you could have potential problems post delivery from severe anemia.
The bottom line is to avoid anemia during pregnancy by being proactive with your diet and iron supplements. If you are diagnosed with anemia during your pregnancy, often increasing your intake of iron easily treats it. An easy solution is to take care of yourself and go to all of your prenatal visits.
Review Date: July 23, 2001
Reviewed By: Victoria Kennedy, RN, A.D.A.M. editorial.
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