So you’re feeling unusually weak, tired and lightheaded these days? You may want to have your doctor or midwife check you for pregnancy anemia. Particularly prevalent during pregnancy, anemia results in fewer healthy red blood cells, which may mean less oxygen for your growing baby. If left untreated, anemia can cause some pretty serious consequences, such as preterm delivery, low birth weight and developmental delays for your little one.
When you’re expecting, your blood volume increases to support your developing baby. If you have an iron deficiency, it may be tough for your body to continue manufacturing the red blood cells it needs. Not only will your body struggle to produce additional blood, but it also won’t be able to carry enough oxygen throughout your body. While there are other types of anemia, iron-deficient anemia is far and away the most common for pregnant women.
To diagnose anemia, your doctor or midwife will order a blood test to check your hemoglobin levels, a protein in red blood cells. It’s important to follow your health care provider’s orders and submit to routine blood work throughout your pregnancy. Anemia may be tricky to diagnose based purely on your symptoms. In the earliest stages, it can mimic many of the symptoms of pregnancy. In any case, here’s what you’ll want to watch out for:
- Your skin, lips and nails may be unusually pale
- You feel extreme fatigue, weakness and dizziness
- You notice rapid a rapid heartbeat
- You struggle to keep your concentration
When diagnosed and treated properly, iron-deficient anemia can be corrected and pose no risk to your little one. After a diagnosis, your doctor or midwife may make the following suggestions to remedy the situation:
- Prescribe an iron supplement, in addition to your prenatal vitamin
- Encourage you to include more iron-rich foods in your diet, such as beef, lentils, greens and eggs
- Repeat blood work to see how treatment is going
As a reminder, it’s essential that you take blood work requests seriously. Your health care provider will routinely check your hemoglobin levels in the first and third trimesters. If left untreated, anemia may cause multiple complications during pregnancy. Fortunately, treatment for pregnancy anemia is as simple as increasing your iron intake under your doctor or midwife’s supervision.