Women go through a lot of complications during pregnancy. The many changes in their body can cause problems such as diabetes, constipation, morning sickness and headaches. One of the most common complications among Indian women is anemia in pregnancy.
If you have any worries about having anemia during pregnancy, or if your doctor has already informed you that you have anemia, don't be scared. With the right food habits, you can easily overcome this. Read this blog to understand more about anemia in pregnancy. We have also listed some healthy food habits that you can follow to keep anemia in pregnancy away.
What is anemia?
The blood in your body is made up of red blood cells, which has a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from your lungs to the other parts of your body.
If the hemoglobin or red blood cell count reduces in your blood, your body parts will not get enough oxygen. This condition is called anemia.
What causes anemia in pregnancy?
During pregnancy, your baby gets all the necessary food and nutrients from your blood. The placenta absorbs the nutrients from your blood to feed your baby. This can cause a decrease in hemoglobin in your blood. If your daily food intake does not have enough nutrients, the hemoglobin in your blood does not get replaced, causing anemia in pregnancy.
Too much blood loss from vaginal bleeding or bleeding from wounds or cuts during your pregnancy can also cause loss of blood cells, leading to anemia in pregnancy.
In general, anemia in pregnancy is caused by less iron, folate or vitamin B12 in your body.
What are the symptoms of anemia in pregnancy?
There are many symptoms that can indicate loss of blood cell or hemoglobin count in your body. These symptoms are:
- Pale skin, less colour in the face
- Feeling breathless, tired or dizzy
- Faster heartbeat
If you notice any of these symptoms, go to your doctor immediately.
How is the medical test for anemia in pregnancy done?
As anemia during pregnancy is very common, a blood test to check for anemia is usually done when you go for a medical checkup. Using your blood sample, the hemoglobin count and red blood cell count is checked.
Normal hemoglobin levels are 12-15 g/dl (grams per deciliter) of blood. If the level is lesser than this range, you might get diagnosed with anemia.
Are you at a higher risk of having anemia during pregnancy?
Yes, some women are more likely to have anemia during pregnancy than others. If you have any of these following conditions, you might have anemia during pregnancy:
- If you have anemia before your pregnancy.
- If you are pregnant with twins or more babies.
- If there is a short gap between two pregnancies. Doctors advise that it is good to have a gap of at least 1.5 years between two children.
- If you are pregnant at a very young age (below 18 years).
- If you do not eat nutritious food.
What are the risks of anemia during pregnancy?
If you have anemia during pregnancy, it is very important to recover as soon as possible. Anemia can affect both you and your baby. Some of the risks are:
- Premature delivery.
- You might have depression after the baby's delivery. This is called postpartum depression.
- Fetal development gets affected (Your baby's growth and development in the womb will be slow).
- Baby might be born with anemia.
- Baby will be born with a low weight.
- During delivery, there will be a loss of blood. If your blood level is already below the normal range, you might require a blood transfusion after delivery.
Now that you know the risks, surely you will do your best to overcome this condition. It is important to eat healthy food and take your medicines to increase your blood and hemoglobin levels.
How to increase blood and hemoglobin in the body?
If you have anemia in pregnancy, it is very important to eat the right foods to increase the blood count in your body. If you want to avoid getting anemia in pregnancy, maintaining the correct diet with all the necessary nutrients will help you. Anemia in pregnancy can be because of the deficiency of iron, folate or vitamin B12. Our tips below will help you avoid anemia in pregnancy by eating the proper foods that can increase blood and hemoglobin in your body.
Anemia in pregnancy due to less iron
Without enough iron in the body, your body will not be able to produce enough hemoglobin. Less hemoglobin leads to less oxygen in your blood, which causes anemia.
How to increase iron in the body?
Your doctor might have prescribed iron tablets if you have less iron in your body. Along with these tablets, you can include some iron-rich food in your regular diet. Some iron-rich foods are:
- Dal, soya
- Green vegetables like palak, beans, green peas
- Dry fruits like raisins, dates (khajur) and walnuts
Anemia in pregnancy due to less folate
Folate is a form of vitamin B that helps in producing red blood cells in the body. As your blood is providing nutrients to your baby during pregnancy, you need to make sure that your body is able to produce more red blood cells during this time.
Along with you, your baby also requires folate in large quantities. Folate helps in the growth and development of your baby's spinal cord in the first few months of your pregnancy. So, less folate in your body can result in anemia in pregnancy, as well as, health issues for your baby.
How to increase folate in the body?
As mentioned above, to avoid anemia in pregnancy, your body needs a good amount of folate every day. One of the biggest sources of folate is folic acid.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a pregnant woman needs at least 400 grams of folic acid every day. Folic acid supplements are usually prescribed in the first trimester of pregnancy. The dosage might reduce after the second trimester.
To increase folates in your body, you can eat-
- Spinach (Palak), methi, mustard seeds
- Dal, rajma, soya, walnut
Anemia in pregnancy due to less vitamin B12
To produce blood in the body, vitamin B12 is necessary. If vitamin B12 is less in your body, you will have a lower blood count, because of which you might get anemia in pregnancy.
How to increase vitamin B12 in the body?
To avoid anemia in pregnancy, it is important to eat foods that are rich in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is present in most dairy products like milk, curd and cheese. It is also present in non-veg items like egg, chicken and fish.
If you are a vegetarian, you might not be getting enough quantity of vitamin B12 in your regular diet. In such cases, your doctor might prescribe vitamin B12 tablets for you.
Though anemia during pregnancy is very common, it can be cured and avoided easily. Just eat healthy, nutritious food rich in iron, folic acid and B12 and your hemoglobin levels will be back to normal. Make sure that your diet is well balanced with all the necessary nutrients and you and your baby will be perfectly healthy. This can also be a good start towards having healthier food habits in your future.