Anaemia

When there is a deficiency of red blood cells or of haemoglobin in the blood

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Iron-deficiency during pregnancy

Anaemia refers to a deficiency of iron in your body. Iron helps produce haemoglobin which helps the red blood cells to store and carry oxygen in the body. Anaemia may also refer to a deficiency of folic acid or Vitamin B12 or a combination of the two. About 6 out of 10 pregnant women in India are anaemic. It’s important to manage anaemia during pregnancy because it has health implications for both you and the baby. Who is at risk of anaemia? The following groups of women have a higher risk of anaemia than others. Women who have a diet which is low in iron-rich foods. Women who have severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum) and can’t keep down any food. Women who have had anaemia in an earlier pregnancy. Women who had heavy periods before pregnancy. Women who are pregnant at 20 years or younger. Women who are carrying twins or multiples. Why is anaemia harmful during pregnancy? Anaemia first affects you and then your baby. Here are some of the complications that result from anaemia. Fatigue and low energy levels Pre-term labour Low birth-weight baby Baby born with low iron levels Higher risk of contracting an infection when pregnant Symptoms and diagnosis of anaemia Symptoms of anaemia include tiredness, irritability, low energy levels, breathlessness, weakness, dizziness, pale eyelids and nail beds, a sore tongue and strange taste in the mouth, hair loss, headaches, unusual cravings and low tolerance for the cold. Most of these symptoms can be attributed to other factors during pregnancy which is why most women do not realize they are anaemic. The best way to detect anaemia is through a blood test early on in the pregnancy. You are diagnosed as anaemic if your haemoglobin is lower than 11g/dL of blood. How is anaemia treated? While women usually require 30mg of Iron in a day, this becomes 38mg during pregnancy. Most pregnant women are given one iron tablet(100mg of elemental iron and 0.5mg folic acid) a day to prevent anaemia. This is given for 100 days starting in the second trimester of the pregnancy. For women who are diagnosed as anaemic, this is increased to two tablets a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. This will continue until the haemoglobin levels become normal after which they can switch to one tablet a day. The iron supplements should not be had together with calcium supplements as calcium hinders proper absorption of iron by the body. Vitamin C on the other hand aids in iron absorption. Therefore, you should avoid having calcium-rich foods like milk for an hour after having the iron tablet. Instead, you should have Vitamin C rich fluids like orange juice, gooseberry (amla) juice, and lemonade. In extreme cases, the doctor may have to give an intravenous injection or even a blood transfusion to make sure the body gets enough iron. Eating iron-rich foods is a must during pregnancy. The body absorbs iron better from non-vegetarian sources of food than vegetarian sources. Thus, vegetarians should make sure they have more iron-rich food.