DEFINITION--An inadequate level of hemoglobin during pregnancy. Hemoglobin is a
protein that carries oxygen to body tissues.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Blood cells.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Pregnant females.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Breathlessness. Tiredness, weakness or fainting. Paleness. Infrequent:
- Palpitations or an abnormal awareness of the heartbeat.
- Inflamed, sore tongue.
- Abdominal pain.
- Poor diet with inadequate iron.
- Folic-acid deficiency.
- Loss of blood from bleeding hemorrhoids or gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Excess cooking of food, which destroys available iron and other nutrients.
- Even if iron and folic-acid intake are sufficient, a pregnant woman may become anemic
because pregnancy alters the digestive process. The fetus consumes some of the iron or
folic acid normally available to the mother's body.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Poor nutrition, especially multiple vitamin deficiencies.
- Smoking, which reduces absorption of important nutrients.
- Excess alcohol consumption, leading to poor nutrition.
- Medical history of any disorder that reduces absorption of nutrients.
- Use of anticonvulsant drugs.
- Previous use of oral contraceptives.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Eat foods rich in iron, such as liver, beef, whole-grain breads and cereals, eggs and
- Eat foods high in folic acid, such as wheat germ, beans, peanut butter, oatmeal,
mushrooms, collards, broccoli, beef liver and asparagus.
- Eat foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and fresh, raw vegetables. Vitamin C
makes iron absorption more efficient.
- Take prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements, if your doctor prescribes them.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory blood studies of hemoglobin, iron, hematocrit and folic acid.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Self-care after diagnosis.
- Doctor's treatment.
- Premature labor.
- Dangerous anemia from normal blood loss during labor, requiring blood transfusions.
- Increased susceptibility to infection after childbirth.
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Usually curable with iron and folic-acid supplements by mouth
or by injection.
How To Treat
- If the tongue is red and sore, rinse with warm salt water 3 or 4 times a day. Use 1
teaspoon salt to 8 oz. warm water.
- Brush teeth with a soft toothbrush.
MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe iron, folic acid and other supplements.
For better absorption, take iron supplements 1 hour before eating or between meals. Iron
will turn bowel movements black and often cause constipation.
ACTIVITY--No restrictions, except rest often until anemia disappears.
DIET--Eat well and take prescribed supplements. Increase fiber and fluid intake
to prevent constipation. See How to Prevent for diet suggestions.
Call Your Doctor If
- You have symptoms of anemia during pregnancy.
- The following occurs during treatment: Diarrhea. Nausea. Abdominal pain. Constipation.
Bleeding--however slight--from any source.