Anemia is defined as simply not having enough red blood cells. During pregnancy, blood is usually tested at the first prenatal visit and then again at the beginning of the third trimester. The tests for anemia are hemoglobin and hematocrit. Pregnant women with hemoglobin levels below 11 and/or a hematocrit level below 33% are generally considered anemic, but complications and symptoms from anemia during pregnancy do not usually occur until hemoglobin levels are well below 11.
If you're not able to get enough iron from your diet alone, ask your doctor about taking an iron supplement. If you are already experiencing gastrointestinal issues due to your pregnancy, ask about carbonyl iron which is naturally regulated by the body and may help minimize side effects associated with increased iron intake.
Symptoms of moderate to severe anemia (usually below 8.0) include:
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
Anemia is a common problem during pregnancy because of dilution of the blood which expands to almost twice the normal volume by the 28th week of pregnancy.
Having enough iron also gives you a quicker recovery postpartum. Being anemic puts you at risk when you bleed more than usual after delivery (postpartum hemorrhage) and increases the need for a blood transfusion.
When you're diagnosed with anemia, you'll need several additional tests to find the possible causes, including serum ferritin and transferrin levels or total iron binding capacity, hemoglobin electrophoresis, and checking stool for blood.
Causes Of Anemia
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Anemia from blood loss
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Folic acid deficiency
- Back-to-back pregnancies
- Inherited anemia (sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, Fanconi anemia)
Boost Your Iron With These Foods
- Organ meats, especially chicken liver
- Whole grains
- Black rice
- Dark leafy greens
- Nuts (especially almonds)
Foods that contain high amounts of folate are also important, so try eating asparagus, barley, beef, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, cheese, chicken, dates, green leafy vegetables, lamb, lentils, legumes, liver, milk, oranges, split peas, root vegetables, salmon, tuna, wheat germ, and whole grains.