Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when the body does not have enough iron, and this leads to a decrease in the number of red blood cells in the body. There are other forms of anaemia, but iron deficiency anaemia is the most common.
Anaemia during pregnancy
Iron is vital for delivering oxygen and nutrients to your developing baby. Pregnant women need to consume 14.8mg of iron a day, to make sure the baby is getting enough nutrients. Anaemia is a common condition during pregnancy.
You are more likely to develop anaemia during pregnancy if you:
- suffered from severe morning sickness
- are pregnant with multiples
- have recently had a baby
- have previously suffered from anaemia during pregnancy
Symptoms of anaemia
The most common symptoms of anaemia include:
- shortness of breath
- a pale complexion
- heart palpitations
Treatment for anaemia
Anaemia is most common during the second half of the pregnancy, when the iron stores in the body are running low. Your iron levels will be checked during one of your routine blood tests. If the tests reveal that you are suffering from anaemia or low iron levels, you will be offered an iron supplement to take.
During pregnancy, you have an increased risk of suffering from constipation, so you won’t be pleased to hear that this is a common side effect of iron supplements. Try drinking prune juice, eating a high-fibre breakfast cereal, and drinking plenty of water throughout the day, to reduce your chance of suffering from constipation.
Most women find the anaemia disappears after taking the iron supplements, however a small percentage of women may still suffer from low iron levels. These women are offered iron injections to treat the anaemia.
How to avoid anaemia during pregnancy
The key to avoiding anaemia, is to make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in iron. You should make sure you eat a variety of the following iron-rich foods:
- green leafy vegetables – spinach, watercress and kale are all high in dietary iron
- nuts and seeds – a handful of mixed nuts and seeds each day will increase your iron intake
- dried fruit – snacking on dried fruit throughout the day can increase your iron intake
- pulses – baked beans, and other beans, are high in iron
- lean meats – choosing lean meat can increase your iron levels
- fortified foods – soya milk and breakfast cereals are often fortified with iron and other minerals
- molasses – use this during baking to add iron to your diet
Try drinking a glass of orange juice alongside iron-rich foods. Orange juice makes it easier for your body to absorb iron from food. You should try to avoid consuming dairy products and caffeine with meals, as these foods can actually inhibit iron absorption.
How are you making sure you eat enough iron-rich foods during pregnancy?
Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.