As soon as a woman tells people she’s pregnant, she begins to get advice from well-wishers to eat better or “eat for two”. In most cases, doctors also prescribe folic acid, iron and calcium tablets and other supplements. This happens because everyone is worried about the mother not getting enough nutrients from her diet. In this article, you will learn everything about iron deficiency during pregnancy.
During pregnancy one of the most important nutrients that women need is iron. That is why doctors do a blood test to check haemoglobin levels and then immediately prescribe iron tablets. This ensures that the mommy-to-be and baby are protected from any iron deficiency or Anemia.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
If your body is iron deficient, you may experience one or all of the below-mentioned symptoms:
- Excessive stress
- Dizziness and fainting
- Excessive fatigue
- Irregular heartbeats
- Pale face
Why does iron deficiency happen? Why is it dangerous?
Iron is present in each and every cell of the human body. Iron is the most important element of hemoglobin, which helps to form our Red Blood Cells. RBC helps to carry oxygen to our body’s tissues. Iron also helps to boost the immune system of the body and fights against infections and diseases by helping to produce White Blood Cells.
When a woman is pregnant - her body’s immunity is already low, because body is working over time in helping the baby grow. At such time it is vital that she have enough iron so that there is good supply of WBCs. Left untreated iron deficiency can even become fatal - for both mom and baby.
Let us see how iron deficiency happens:
- Low Vitamin C levels in the body can also lead to anemia since Vitamin C is required for the absorption of iron in our body. It is very important to include adequate quantities of both iron and Vitamin C in your diet to reduce anemia.
- Frequent dieting is another reason for low iron levels in the body is. During dieting, your body doesn’t get the required nutrition.
- Consuming certain foods in excess can also interfere with the absorption of iron in the body. These foods include cheese, coffee, tea, and milk. The cause of this interference is the fact that all these are rich in calcium which affects the absorption of iron.
Why are women at a higher risk of iron deficiency?
Research has found that iron deficiency is more common in women. This is because of women’s monthly menstrual cycle in which they lose a lot of blood. Most women bleed for 3-4 days and lose 10-35 ml of blood during each cycle. However, they do not get iron in adequate quantities to combat the low iron levels in the body. As a result of this, they become anemic.
What causes iron deficiency during pregnancy?
Iron deficiency during pregnancy is a very common problem. The reasons for this are:
- Requirement of iron is high: Your body requires double the amount of iron it needed earlier. You need more iron to support yourself and your growing baby.
- Insufficient quantity of Vitamin B & Folic Acid: Inadequate quantities of Vitamin B and Folic acid in the body can also give rise to the iron deficiency. This is so because the Red Blood Cells are produced by the trio - Iron, folic acid and Vitamin B together. The lack of even one can obstruct the production of RBCs in the body.
- Intake of iron and calcium: Consuming calcium along with iron supplements interferes with the absorption of iron in the body and this, in turn, leads to an iron deficiency in the body.
At the onset of your pregnancy, your doctor will make you undergo certain tests, which include a hemoglobin test. According to the results, she might prescribe you iron and folic acid supplements along with multivitamins so that you or your baby doesn’t suffer from iron deficiency. If your doctor gives you calcium supplements as well, make sure you space out iron and calcium. Do not take them together.
In addition to the supplements, it is very important that you include foods that are rich sources of Iron and Vitamin C in your diet. Some sources of iron are green leafy vegetables, dry fruits, cereals, red meat, soybeans, and tofu. You should have a little bit of iron in every meal.
Consequences of iron deficiency in pregnancy
Iron deficiency during pregnancy can affect your health and your baby’s growth adversely.
- Baby’s Growth is Affected: Your baby’s growth can get impaired if you have severe anemia.
- Chances of Premature Delivery: The chances of a premature delivery are also increased if the mother is anemic.
- Weak immunity in Baby: The baby may also have a relatively weak immune system and he/she may also be born with low birth weight. Such babies are more prone to contract various infections during infancy.
- Anemia in the Baby: The baby may also be anemic and this will affect his/her growth.
At times, women have a good hemoglobin level during pregnancy but they lose a lot of blood during delivery. So, a woman can become anemic due to complications at the time of delivery and this can make her vulnerable. The mother may also require blood transfusions but in severe cases, it becomes tough to regain the huge amount of blood loss.
This can be life-threatening or it can affect you throughout your life. In rare cases, maternal death occurs if the mother loses an excessive amount of blood at the time of delivery. This is the reason why doctors prescribe frequent blood tests so that they can guard you against anemia and they also advise the mother to eat a healthy and iron rich diet.
Also Read: 9 Home Remedies to Reduce Hair Fall during and after Pregnancy
How much Iron do you need and how can you get it?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance of Iron for a pregnant woman is 18 mg per day. The mother should continue to take enough iron supplements and iron-rich foods throughout the pregnancy and during lactation as the baby gets all the nutrients from her.
The mother should have ample reserves of iron as babies draw upon mother’s iron reserves and this can again make the mother anemic. Foods that are rich in iron include dark green leafy vegetables, fortified grains, dried beans, chicken, fish, meat, eggs, green peas, dried apricots and tomato juice. Mommies, must ensure that these foods are a regular part of their diet.
If you’re pregnant and experience any of the symptoms listed above, please do consult your doctor. She will be able to prescribe the right supplements to help you reduce this iron deficiency. And even after giving birth, please keep getting your iron levels checked at regular intervals as a preventive measure. Afterall, Healthy Mom = Healthy Baby.
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