The term anemia refers to a lack of satisfactory red blood cells. Red blood cells are important in the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Anemia during pregnancy is diagnosed when the concentration of red blood cells per 100 milliliters of blood (hematocrit) falls below 33. Anemia is a common problem during pregnancy, occurring in up to 50% of all women.
Anemia may occur as the pregnant woman’s amount of blood increases during the second trimester. In addition, diets low in iron or folic acid, closely spaced pregnancies or twin pregnancies may contribute to anemia.
Mild anemia does not pose a significant risk to the developing baby. Treatment is indicated, however, to prevent anemia from becoming severe, which could harm the fetus. In addition, treatment of mild anemia will protect the mother from side effects related to blood loss during childbirth.
Most anemias are caused by iron deficiency. The treatment is increased dietary intake of iron and iron supplementation by pill.
Although dietary sources of iron alone will not correct anemia, iron is best absorbed from food. Iron from animal foods is better absorbed than iron from plant or enriched foods. Eating foods high in Vitamin C (e.g., citrus fruits and juices) along with a meal high in iron will help iron absorption from the intestine. Coffee and tea decrease the amount of iron absorbed, as do foods high in fiber. Refer to the list on the bottom of this card for sources of iron-rich foods.
We recommend the following treatment for anemia: