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Anemia in Pregnancy: Causes, Risks, Symptoms, and Prevention

Anemia in Pregnancy

Anemia during pregnancy is not uncommon. Nearly 52% of expecting women in developing countries deal with iron deficiency. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a matter of concern. Understanding anemia in pregnancy causes and treatment is crucial. That’s because both severe and mild anemia require treatment to protect the mother and the fetus. We are here to ensure you have a blissful pregnancy. So, today we’ll tell you everything about anemia in pregnancy, its risk factors, and natural remedies. 


Anemia in pregnancy causes 

Being anemic during pregnancy: What does it mean?

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have sufficient blood cells to transport oxygen throughout your body. The human body can’t function properly when the oxygen supply is limited. RBCs (red blood cells) contain hemoglobin. This protein assists the RBCs in carrying oxygen from the lungs to diverse body parts. 

To produce hemoglobin and RBCs, your body requires a consistent supply of vitamins and iron. So, any woman who has not increased her intake of vitamins and iron can become anemic after conceiving. 

Different kinds of anemia as noticeable in pregnant women

Anemia can be of 400 types. Pregnant ladies mostly suffer from these three types:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia in pregnancy, resulting from a lack of iron
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, due to a lack of Vitamin B12
  • Folate-deficiency anemia (when the body doesn’t get sufficient folic acid)

Is there any link between anemia and miscarriage?

No, miscarriage is not among the risk factors for anemia in pregnancy. However, severe anemia can lead to other complications like poor growth in the fetus.

Anemia’s effects on the fetus during pregnancy

A developing fetus relies on its mother to get vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron. Anemia can affect the baby’s growth, especially when it’s your first trimester. Your baby can be anemic after birth if you don’t treat your anemia. A small baby with anemia will have low body weight. 

Anemia and birth outcomes

Iron deficiency anemia might pose the following serious risks to the baby and the mom:

  • A baby with developmental delays 
  • Preterm birth 
  • Postpartum depression
  • Low-birth weight 
  • An anemic baby 
  • Blood transfusion (if you lose excess blood while giving birth)


The causes of anemia during pregnancy are many. Pregnancy itself is a major cause as your blood volume has increased. Not having adequate vitamin B12, iron, or folic acid are other causes. The reasons why nonpregnant women have anemia may apply to pregnant women as well.

Anemia in pregnancy causes

  • Not taking an iron supplement 
  • Having a second pregnancy soon after the first one
  • Being pregnant with twins or triplets 
  • Donating blood despite having low blood volume
  • Ailments such as thalassemia and sickle cell anemia
  • Heavy flow during menstruation (before pregnancy)
  • Polyps and ulcers 
  • Frequent vomiting because of morning sickness

Symptoms of anemia in pregnancy 

Mild anemia may not have symptoms. But over time, an anemic person feels:

  • Cold 
  • Fatigue
  • Sore tongue 
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Dry, easily bruised, or pale skin
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Headache 
  • Fast heartbeat 


How do doctors diagnose anemia in a pregnant lady?

A blood test is enough to find out if a person has anemia. The test is called CBC (Complete Blood Volume). You should get this done at the initial stage of your pregnancy. Then you will be able to start prenatal care for anemia at the earliest. 

Your doctor will use the CBC and analyze:

  • The number of red blood cells present in your body 
  • The shape/ size of RBCs 
  • If it is an instance of folate deficiency and pregnancy
  • The iron stored in your body
  • If your body lacks Vitamins B9 and B12

You should get yourself tested on your first prenatal appointment and four weeks after delivery. 

Pregnancy and severe anemia 

What according to doctors is severe anemia? If the hemoglobin levels in pregnant women show less than 7.9 grams per deciliter, it indicates severe anemia. 

What to do in such a situation? Your physician might recommend a blood transfusion as the best solution. It will give your body a healthy amount of RBC. He may refer you to a person who specializes in treating blood conditions. Such a person is known as a hematologist.


Treatment options for anemia in pregnancy

Anemia’s treatment during pregnancy depends on its severity:

  • Your doctor will prescribe a good iron supplement or prenatal vitamin if you have moderate or mild anemia.
  • Blood transfusion might be necessary to deal with severe anemia. 

Natural remedies for anemia in pregnancy

Can you treat anemia at home when you are pregnant? The truth is that good nutrition can prevent anemia when you have conceived. The simplest home remedy is to have food rich in vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid. You should not skip taking prenatal vitamins daily. 

Making some dietary changes can be helpful. For instance, you can include lean beef, fortified cereals, peanuts, eggs, turkey, and spinach in your diet. All of these are high in iron. Food loaded with vitamins assists the body in absorbing iron. So, have tomatoes, peppers, leafy veggies, and citrus fruits as well. 

How long should you wait after the commencement of the treatment to notice changes?

You will feel better just a few days after taking the supplement suggested by your doctor. This works for folate deficiency, B12 deficiency, and iron deficiency anemia. Discuss with your provider if you don’t feel energetic and active even after taking the supplement. 

Negative implications of untreated anemia on your overall health 

Untreated anemia will worsen over time. Too little oxygen in your blood can damage your organs. It also puts tremendous pressure on the heart, thus increasing the chances of developing:

  • Heart failure 
  • Enlarged heart
  • Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat 

Is there any way you can prevent anemia after conceiving?

Now you are aware of the complications related to anemia in pregnancy. So, is there a way you can prevent it? 

Make sure your body gets at least 30 mg of iron per day. You should replenish the iron levels the moment you start planning your pregnancy. The food you eat often fails to meet this daily requirement. Hence, taking a supplement prescribed by an accomplished gynecologist will be wise.

You should consult your healthcare provider if you have some of these symptoms of anemia in pregnancy: 
  • Headaches 
  • Pale skin
  • Dizziness 
  • Sore tongue
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Unintended movement in the lower legs

If you notice any of these symptoms, get yourself tested. 

Parting Thoughts 

So, now you know the anemia in pregnancy causes as well as its symptoms. Maintaining good RBC levels should be your aim to have a healthy pregnancy. Eating a nutritious, iron-rich diet is the best way of looking after yourself. You should also take an iron supplement and your prenatal vitamin daily. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: What are the common causes of anemia in pregnancy?

A: Two of the common causes of anemia during pregnancy are folate acid deficiency and low levels of iron in the body.

Q: How does anemia affect both the mother and the baby during pregnancy?

A: Anemia can increase the risk of various health complications in the baby and the mom. Many anemic women suffer from postpartum depression. Preterm delivery is again a possibility.

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