Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pregnancy


Iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy should begin to be tested at your first prenatal visit. It should be tested throughout entire pregnancy after that. This is done by testing your blood. Iron is essential for making the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the cells. This is called hemoglobin. You need a good amount of iron for your placenta and baby. When you are pregnant, the amount of blood expands which allows you to have 50% more than you regularly do. So, you need more iron to make more hemoglobin to work with all the extra blood.

You become anemic if you get to the point where you don’t have enough iron for making hemoglobin. This can happen when you are just pregnant starting out with low iron. Usually, in your second and third trimester of pregnancy, the demand for iron is higher.

Pregnant women are at risk for iron deficiency anemia if they experience morning sickness where they are constantly vomiting. Being unable to keep iron rich foods down can pose a problem. Women who have had two pregnancies close together are at risk. If you are pregnant with multiples, have a low iron diet, (Vegetarian diet can make the consumption of foods high in iron difficult).

I am vegetarian, and I find that I have a tough time taking in enough iron rich food. Even with iron supplementation, I still struggle to keep my iron levels where they need to be. I always have to be on top of it to ensure a positive vegetarian pregnancy.

If you do not get enough folic acid or vitamin B12, you can become anemic. Having a blood disorder such as sickle cell disease or sickle cell anemia can be an anemia cause. The sickle cell trait is often inherited in African American ancestry.

The Centers for Disease Control do recommend that women take 30 mg of iron supplementation each day when pregnant. You can normally find this amount in your prenatal vitamins, but many times, additional amounts may need to be prescribed depending on the level of iron deficiency anemia.

What iron deficiency anemia symptom can I experience?
Sometimes, you may not experience any symptoms at all. Tiredness is common, along with dizziness and weakness. Fainting spells are another anemia symptom that can be experienced. It may be hard to determine yourself that this is iron deficiency anemia as you may experience these symptoms regularly during your pregnancy. Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, heart palpitations or difficulty focusing or concentrating may be an iron deficiency anemia symptom you can experience. One give away is also strong cravings of ice. I am so guilty of that. It drives my mother crazy! I try my best to take my iron supplements and ignore the cravings!

What is the anemia treatment?
Once diagnosed, an iron supplement amount of 60-120 mg daily may be prescribed by your doctor. It is best to take the iron supplements on an empty stomach. Water or orange juice is ideal for consumption. This allows you to “take in” the most of the iron. Vitamin C helps absorb the iron. Milk is not recommended as calcium hinders absorption.

Elemental iron is “pure iron”. Many times, the iron supplementation that is prescribed will be ferrous sulfate, or ferrous iron. 325 mg of ferrous sulfate gives you 60 mg of elemental iron.

What are the side effects from taking extra iron supplementation?
Your gastrointestinal tract may become a bit upset with high levels of iron. This can cause constipation. Prune juice may regulate this as it is also a great source of iron as well. It may make your stools darker. Rarely it can cause diarrhea. Take iron supplements in the evening. Take it before bed if it makes you nauseas or queasy.

You should take iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy serious. Eating more iron rich foods will help out both you and your baby. Having proper levels throughout pregnancy can help prevent your baby from becoming anemic at birth and later in infancy. It is hard to fight infection when you are anemic. If you lose a lot of blood when giving birth, anemia does not help the situation. Keep up with your iron, avoid needing to have a blood transfusion when giving birth.

Examples of iron rich foods:

  1. Red meat: beef, pork, lamb. (try to avoid liver. It is high in vitamin A)
    b. Dried fruits
    c. Spinach
    d. Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey
    e. Fish: Shellfish (Clams, mussels, sardines, anchovies, and oysters)
    f. Leafy greens: (Broccoli, kale, turnip greens and collard greens)
    g. Beans: legumes- lima beans, green peas. Dry beans/peas. Pinto beans, black-eyed peas, baked beans
    h. Yeast- whole wheat bread
    i. Iron-enriched white bread, rice, cereal and pasta

*NOTE: Be sure to keep iron supplements away from children. An adult dose of iron can be harmful to small children. Iron containing products is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children under 6 years old.

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