What You Should Know About Pregnancy Anemia
Is your extreme fatigue and shortness of breath just a part of being pregnant? Or is it a sign of pregnancy anemia? Anemia is a medical condition in which the blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin to support proper oxygen flow to the cells throughout your body. While anemia can develop in both men and women at any stage of life, pregnant women are particularly susceptible. This is due to the fact that pregnant women are producing more blood than normal to support a growing baby inside. When the expectant mother is not consuming enough iron to produce the amount of red blood cells needed to make this additional blood, hemoglobin levels fall and anemia can result.
How is Anemia Diagnosed?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define pregnancy anemia as hemoglobin levels less than 11 g/dL in the first and third trimesters and less than 10.5 g/dL in the second trimester. If your levels aren’t measuring up and you are deemed anemic during pregnancy, you are not alone! Up to 16 to 29% of pregnant women in the United States become anemic in the third trimester. This risk increases greatly if you are pregnant with twins.
What Does Anemia Mean for Your Pregnancy?
When iron deficiency anemia goes untreated during pregnancy, it can negatively impact both the fetus and mother. It may put you at a greater risk for needing a blood transfusion at delivery or having a preterm birth. Your baby may also be at risk for low birth weight, needing special care upon delivery or having a lower Apgar test result.
Treating Iron Deficiency
Don’t worry; pregnancy anemia is typically diagnosed early and can be treated easily during pregnancy. This is why most of your prenatal appointments include a quick finger stick – which allows your physician to determine your hemoglobin level quickly and monitor it throughout your pregnancy. If your blood count is below normal, you will likely be treated with an oral supplement of iron. For women with severe anemia, intravenous iron can be used.
It is important to take a prenatal vitamin as soon as you get a positive pregnancy test. This vitamin has the extra nutrients your body will need to support a healthy growing fetus. Make sure you attend your regularly scheduled prenatal appointments, even if you feel fine and assume there are no complications. These visits allow your physician to take important evaluations of what you may not see on the outside – including your hemoglobin count in your blood!
At North Pointe OB/GYN, we are known for excellence in prenatal care. If you experience symptoms of pregnancy anemia, such as pale skin, dizziness, shortness of breath or feeling weak/tired, please call our office to schedule a blood screening.