Some women find that they become anaemic during their pregnancies. This is known as iron deficiency anaemia, and most often occurs in the later stages of pregnancy when the foetus is becoming bigger, heavier and has more blood circulating in his or her body, therefore requiring greater red cell and blood production on the part of the mother.
Am I at risk of anaemia?
Anyone who is pregnant carries the risk of developing anaemia it is thought that 10 to 15 percent of pregnant women will develop it, as opposed to three or four percent of women who aren't pregnant.
Generally, you're more at risk of anaemia if you have an inadequate diet and, as iron can be stored by the body, how you ate before your pregnancy may also have an effect. Mothers who have experienced moderate to severe morning sickness are also at greater risk, as the vomiting means that the iron-bearing food was not digested.
Women with more than one child in the womb have an even greater requirement for iron, and for each additional child in a multiple pregnancy the need increases. The same sort of logic applies to mothers who have their children very soon one after another, when the body has not had sufficient time to "restock" the iron pantry.
How do I know if I have anaemia?
You'll usually be tested for anaemia at your pre-natal visits, via a simple blood test. Normally the condition will be picked up relatively quickly.
Vanessa, 33, suffered from iron deficiency anaemia while she was pregnant with her first child. "I've always been fit and healthy, but with the anaemia I had to stop and rest in the middle of taking a flight of stairs, I was so breathless."
Other symptoms of anaemia during pregnancy also include:
- Very pale complexion
Will being anaemic hurt my baby?
The chances are that your baby will be fine, though you will both benefit from immediate treatment for the anaemia. One of the reasons why you are experiencing these symptoms is because the body prioritises the needs of a growing baby, or babies, over your own.
How is anaemia treated?
By far the best "cure" for anaemia is prevention. Eat a healthy and balanced diet, and make sure you get plenty of iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, sardines, dried fruit, jacket potatoes and spinach. Absorption is enhanced if your intake of vitamin C is adequate, so make sure you get plenty of ascorbic acid in your diet. Absorption is reduced by substances such as alcohol and caffeine, so drink your occasional glass of wine a hour or so after your meal, and avoid coffee, tea and cola drinks with food.
You may also wish to take an iron supplement usually it is included in pre-natal vitamins. This is also how iron deficiency is treated doctors will prescribe a higher dosage of iron tablet until the condition clears. Don't be tempted to self-diagnose: anaemia is occasionally caused by factors other than iron deficiency, and it is safest to get the all-clear from your doctor.