What is Anemia
Anemia is a condition in which the body lacks enough or healthy red blood cells (RBC). Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to different body parts.
Anemia in pregnancy
Mild anemia is one of the normal changes that happens during pregnancy. This owes to the increase in demand for hemoglobin; a protein in RBC which is vital for the transport of oxygen throughout mother’s body. The body requires more RBC during pregnancy but certain factors such as poor diet, nausea and vomiting can inhibit the production of RBCs. Mild anemia rarely have symptoms and is easily managed with supplements and good nutrition.
Anemic conditions in pregnancy becomes an issue when it becomes severe. Its symptoms ranges from dizziness to tiredness, feeling irritable, difficulty in concentration etc. It may lead to more complications like low amniotic fluid levels, preterm birth, low birth weight, anemia in baby and birth defects.
Causes of Anemia
The causes of anemia may range from simple to complex medical conditions and so does its symptoms and treatment. They include;
- Excessive blood loss from menstruation or child delivery, wounds and other medical conditions.
- Faulty RBCs production manifested in sickle cell anemia, iron and vitamin deficiency anemia, bone marrow and stem cell problems etc.
- Destruction of RBCs owing to sickle cell anemia and other inherited conditions, infections, clotting disorders etc.
In the absence of hereditary conditions like sickle cell anemia and others, and preexisting medical issues, iron and vitamin deficiency is often responsible for anemia in pregnancy.
- Iron deficiency anemia
Iron deficiency is the common cause of anemic condition in pregnancy. It is caused by the body’s lack of enough iron necessary for the production of hemoglobin. Low hemoglobin results in the blood’s inability to carry enough oxygen to different body tissues.
- Folate deficiency anemia
Folate or vitamin B9 is a vitamin essential for the production of new cells, RBCs inclusive. Folate deficiency means the body is not producing sufficient new RBCs. This leads to anemia.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia
Vitamin B12 is important for the formation of healthy RBCs. Not only does vitamin B12 insufficiency causes anemia, it could result in neurological imbalances. The risk factor for insufficient vitamin B12 includes preterm birth and neural tube abnormalities.
The body obtains folate from leafy green veggies, eggs, citrus, legumes and others. Vomiting, lack of appetite and other conditions may inhibit the body’s ability to derive folate from foods. Hence, the man-made folate called folic acid is usually recommended and administered to pregnant women.
Mothers at greater risk of being anemic includes;
- Mothers with genetic anemic conditions.
- Teenage mothers.
- Mothers experiencing chronic vomiting.
- Mothers pregnant with more than one fetus.
- Good nutrition is a most important factor in maintaining mother and child’s health during pregnancy. Foods rich in proteins, fibers, and other essential minerals and vitamins should be a first hand source of nutrition. This is needed for the proper advancement of the gestation period. It will reduce the risk of nutrition related complications like vitamin deficiency anemia.
- Treating pre existing anemic conditions before pregnancy is an important step in avoiding severe anemia during the gestation period. In fact, folic acids is recommended by Doctors for at least a month before conception and 3 months into the pregnancy. Not only does it boost the chances of fertility, it also reduces the risk of developing chronic anemia during pregnancy.
- The intake of vitamin supplements during pregnancy is necessary for maintaining the overall wellbeing of mother and child. This is because the pregnant mother may not be obtaining enough vitamins from foods owing to appetite issues, vomiting and so on. Hence, Folic acids, iron supplements, and vitamin B12 supplements are some of the recommended daily supplements for pregnant mothers.
Treatment for Anemia
Although severe anemia in pregnancy is a cause for medical alarm, thankfully, there are a number of solutions to treat the condition. These are;
- Nutritional boost is a constant step in treating anemia. Patients are encouraged to eat more animal foods like lean meats, eggs, milk, and increase their leafy green intake. Also, consumption of vitamin c rich foods like citrus, tomatoes and bell peppers is encouraged as it helps the absorption of iron.
- Vitamin Supplements are usually administered to pregnant women. However, caregivers may increase the dosage of the multivitamins and iron tablets being administered in a bid to treat anemia.
- Blood transfusions although restricted to very needy or emergency anemic situations may be a last option to treat chronic anemia in pregnancy.
Generally, caregivers recommend pregnant women to go for blood tests to check for their risks of being anemic while anemic mothers are expected to have a routine complete blood count (CBC) so as to keep the condition in check.