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Anemia in pregnancy: what is it, what are the symptoms and how to treat it

Although common and often asymptomatic, anemia in pregnancy must be monitored and quickly treated. In this way, it is possible to avoid potential risks to the health of the pregnant woman and the baby. We consulted gynecologist and obstetrician Dr. Karina Tafner (CRM 118066), who explained the symptoms, the risks to the baby and how to treat the problem. Follow the article!

What is anemia and why does it appear in pregnancy?

The gynecologist reports that “according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells and their oxygen-carrying capacity are insufficient to meet physiological needs, which vary according to age, sex, height, smoking and pregnancy.”

“During pregnancy, there is an increase of about 35% in erythrocyte mass (red cells) and 40 to 50% in plasma volume, to meet the needs of uterine blood supply. As a result, the blood acquires a lower concentration of red cells. In the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy, the iron needs of the fetus progressively increase, with iron deficiency anemia being more frequent in this period”, he adds.

Symptoms of anemia in pregnancy

  • Pale skin, lips and nails;
  • Hair loss and weakening of nails;
  • Feeling tired or weak;
  • Dizziness and shortness of breath;
  • Accelerated heartbeat;
  • Decreased immune function;
  • Impairment of physical and mental performance;
  • Lower tolerance to blood loss from childbirth, resulting in increased risk of postpartum anemia and blood transfusion.

In the early stage, anemia can be asymptomatic and many of the symptoms, when present, are very similar to the symptoms of pregnancy, even if the pregnant woman is not anemic.

Risks for mother and baby

“Anemia in pregnancy can increase the risks of miscarriage and intrauterine death, intrauterine growth restriction and postpartum depression. For the baby, there are risks of fetal hypoxemia, prematurity and irreversible changes in the child’s neurological development”, warns the gynecologist.

How to treat anemia in pregnancy

  1. Food rich in iron: including foods such as meats, beef liver, beans, spinach and cabbage in the diet can help treat and prevent anemia in pregnancy.
  2. Foods rich in folate: Folate deficiency anemia can be treated by including foods such as green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, dried beans, breads and cereals fortified with folic acid in the diet.
  3. Foods rich in vitamin C: “Foods rich in vitamin C help the body to absorb more iron. These include: citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, kiwis, tomatoes and peppers. Try eating these foods at the same time you eat foods rich in iron. For example, you can drink a glass of orange juice and eat an iron-fortified cereal for breakfast”, guides the gynecologist.
  4. Iron supplements: to treat iron deficiency anemia, in addition to including foods rich in iron in the diet, oral or intravenous supplements can be used, depending on the pregnant woman’s needs.
  5. Daily iron injections: the gynecologist advises that “iron supplements can cause side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea and heartburn. In women in whom these symptoms are very strong, daily iron injections may be chosen. However, these injections are painful and can cause skin blemishes.”
  6. Blood transfusion: “if anemia is severe (Hb
  7. Beetroot and Carrot Juice: Beetroot is a great source of B-complex vitamins, thus helping to restore iron in the body. Combined with carrots, a food rich in vitamin A, it contributes to the development of the fetus and helps to reinforce the adhesion of the placenta.

In addition to following a balanced diet, it is important that the pregnant woman regularly take the prenatal vitamins prescribed by the doctor – especially those containing iron and folic acid in their composition.

how to prevent

“To prevent anemia in pregnancy, it is recommended to have at least three well-balanced meals a day with foods rich in iron. Also, choose foods that are high in folate to help prevent folic acid deficiency. Vegetarians and vegans should talk to their doctor to see if they should take a vitamin B12 supplement during pregnancy or when they are breastfeeding.

It is worth mentioning the importance of doing routine blood tests in prenatal consultations, in order to check for anemia. Thus, the gestational period can be peaceful, both for the mother and for the baby. Enjoy and learn more about the causes of hemorrhoids in pregnancy and how to treat them.

Erika Balbino

Graduated in Letters and post-graduated in Digital Journalism. Passionate about books, plants and animals. She loves to travel and research other cultures. She writes on a variety of subjects, especially health, wellness, beauty and behavior.

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