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Houston Fertility Center

Pregnancy and Anemia: What You Need to Know

By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on November 17, 2017

Couple holding up sonogram in front of mom’s bellyWhen you become pregnant, your body produces more blood to assist in the development and growth of your baby. Therefore, it is normal to develop mild anemia during pregnancy. However, if you have severe anemia due to a lack of certain vitamins and minerals, it can increase the risk of pregnancy complications.

Fortunately, at the Houston Fertility Center in Houston, TX, Dr. Sonja B. Kristiansen offers various services for a wide array of needs, including fertility evaluations, surgical options, and infertility treatments to help couples get pregnant. Here, we discuss pregnancy and anemia, the risks associated with it, and the treatments that can help you overcome the problem.

Types of Anemia during Pregnancy

Among several types of anemia, there are a few that are more common during pregnancy. These include:

  • Iron-Deficiency Anemia: The most common form of anemia, iron deficiency occurs when the body lacks the iron necessary to produce normal amounts of hemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Therefore, if you develop this type of anemia, your body is unable to deliver sufficient oxygen to crucial tissues.
  • Folate-Deficiency Anemia: Found in foods like leafy greens, folate is an essential vitamin. If your diet does not provide adequate amounts of folate, a man-made supplement called folic acid is available. Folate-deficiency anemia can be a direct factor in low birth weight and abnormalities such as spina bifida.  
  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency: This essential vitamin helps your body form healthy red blood cells. If you lack Vitamin B12 while pregnant, it can lead to birth defects or preterm labor. Women who do not consume meat, poultry, eggs, or dairy products are at a higher risk for developing this type of deficiency.

Symptoms of Anemia During Pregnancy

There are numerous factors that can indicate anemia during pregnancy. Some of these include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin, nails, and lips
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty concentrating

Risk Factors for Anemia in Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, you are at risk for becoming anemic. However, your risk is increased if you:

  • Do not consume an iron-rich diet
  • Previously had anemia
  • Are pregnant with more than one child
  • Experience excessive vomiting due to morning sickness
  • Are a teenager who is pregnant
  • Have had two pregnancies close together

What Are the Risks Associated with Anemia in Pregnancy?

There are several risks related to anemia during pregnancy. For example, if you develop anemia while pregnant, you may:

  • Develop postpartum depression
  • Have a baby with anemia
  • Deliver a low birth weight baby
  • Have a preterm baby
  • Have a child with developmental delays
  • Need a blood transfusion after delivery
  • Deliver a baby with birth defects of the brain or spine

Treatment for Anemia

During your first prenatal appointment, blood testing will be performed. These tests will evaluate your hemoglobin levels and the percentage of red blood cells present. These tests will likely be repeated in your second or third trimester.

If you are diagnosed with anemia, your doctor will most likely recommend that you start taking an iron or folic acid supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamins. Additionally, you may wish to consider adding more animal foods to your diet to increase your body’s natural production of these essential vitamins and minerals.

Learn More about Pregnancy and Anemia

If you are pregnant and suspect you may be anemic, schedule an appointment with Dr. Kristiansen right away. You can contact us online anytime, or call our office at (713) 862-6181.

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