Ask Your Doctor: IRON DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA DURING PREGNANCY

anguillian
By anguillian February 5, 2018 10:46

 

 

One of the most common medical disorders found in pregnant women in Anguilla is that of anaemia. The leading cause of this anaemia is that of iron deficiency. Complications can occur if anaemia during pregnancy is not diagnosed and treated.

What is iron deficiency anaemia?
This is a condition in which an individual does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. The body uses iron to make haemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues. During pregnancy, a woman needs twice the amount of iron that nonpregnant women need. The body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to developing fetus. If the pregnant woman does not have enough iron stores, or get enough iron during pregnancy, she could develop iron deficiency anemia.

How does iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy affect the baby?
Severe anaemia during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, having a low birth weight baby and postpartum depression. Some studies also show an increased risk of infant death immediately before or after birth.

What are the risk factors for iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy?
Some pregnant women do develop a mild anaemia during pregnancy because of increased blood volume associated with pregnancy. Most women are at increased risk of developing anaemia during pregnancy if they have the following:
• Have two closely spaced pregnancies (less that 2 years)
• Are pregnant with more than one baby
• Are vomiting frequently due to morning sickness
• Do not consume enough iron
• Have a heavy pre-pregnancy menstrual flow
• Have a history of anaemia before pregnancy

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy?
There are a wide range of symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia. Some of these symptoms are often similar to general pregnancy symptoms. Common symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy include the following:
• Fatigue
• Weakness
• Pale skin
• Irregular heartbeats
• Shortness of breath
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Chest pain
• Cold hands and feet
• Headache

Tests for Anemia
In Anguilla, most pregnant women should have a blood test during their first prenatal visit which includes a test for anaemia. (Like haemoglobin and haematocrit levels.) Your obstetrician or doctor may carry outother blood tests to determine if you have iron deficiency or another cause for your anaemia.

How can iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy be prevented and treated?
Prenatal vitamins typically contain iron. Taking a prenatal vitamin that contains iron can help prevent and treat iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy. In some cases, your health care provider might recommend a separate iron supplement. During pregnancy, you need 27 milligrams of iron a day.

Good nutrition can also prevent iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy. Dietary sources of iron include lean red meat, poultry and fish. Other options include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, prune juice, dried beans and peas.
The iron from animal products, such as meat, is most easily absorbed. To enhance the absorption of iron from plant sources and supplements, use them with a food or drink high in vitamin C — such as orange juice, tomato juice or lime juice. If you take iron supplements with orange juice, avoid the calcium-fortified variety. Although calcium is an essential nutrient during pregnancy, calcium can decrease iron absorption.

Treatment of iron deficiency during pregnancy
Some pregnant women despite using iron supplements still develop iron deficiency anaemia. In these cases, further investigations are warranted to determine other possible causes. In some cases, the pregnant woman might need to see a doctor who specializes in treating blood disorders (haematologist). Some pregnant women are unable to tolerate oral iron. Some of these might need intravenous iron administration. In the late stages of pregnancy a few women who have severe anaemia might benefit from a transfusion of red blood cells to correct their anaemia.

Conclusion
Iron deficiency anaemia is a very common medical disorder in pregnant women in Anguilla. Improved nutrition, iron supplements and regular prenatal visits can drastically reduce the cases of iron deficiency during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are experiencing symptoms suggestive of iron deficiency anaemia should contact their health care provider so that they can be diagnosed, treated, and further complications prevented.

Ask Your Doctor is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. The reader should consult his or her physician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field are ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.
Dr Brett Hodge MB BS DGO MRCOG, is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and Family Doctor who has over thirty-two years in clinical practice. Dr Hodge has a medical practice in The Johnson Building in The Valley (Tel: 264 4975828).

anguillian
By anguillian February 5, 2018 10:46

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