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Anaemia and Pregnancy


Anaemia occurs when the number of red blood cells or the amount of haemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein) in them is lower than expected. All pregnant women retain water in their blood vessels, and donít make enough red blood cells to compensate. Therefore, all pregnancy women have a decreased red blood cell count compared to when they are not pregnant. Anaemia due to iron deficiency (see below) and other causes worsens during pregnancy.
There are many reasons why a person can be anaemic. These include:

  • Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common in pregnancy. Iron is needed to make red blood cells. When women lose blood, they also lose iron. This happens in pregnancy due to the fact that the woman must supply iron to both herself and her baby. Iron is replaced by vitamin supplements or in the diet.
  • Folic acid ( folate ) deficiencies in the diet may also cause anaemia Folic acid is a B vitamin, which is also needed to produce red blood cells. Folate tablets are used to treat this type of anaemia.
  • Chronic illness .
  • Destruction of blood cells .
  • Blood loss .
  • Abnormally formed blood cells or Inherited abnormally low production of haemoglobin Blood tests (for mothers), chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis (for the foetus) may be undertaken in order to identify haemoglobin abnormalities in those whose race, ethnic origin, or family history would suggest such abnormalities. The most common type of haemoglobin abnormality is sickle cell anaemia (or disease).

Anaemia and Pregnancy

Patients with severe anaemia are more likely to delivery early and have small babies . Women with severe anaemia may have symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and headaches. If the reason for anaemia is an inheritable condition, the baby may also have it.

Birth is also associated with blood loss. Therefore, if a woman is anaemic, she should take iron for several months after delivery in order to help the body replace the lost blood cells and iron stores. Breast feeding women may also need to take iron because iron is lost in breast milk.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine & Prenatal Diagnosis:

Other HON resources 
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Anemia, Iron-Deficiency
Kimball's Biology Pages

Folic Acid:
THE Medical Biochemistry Page

Folic Acid Deficiency

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Anemia, Iron-Deficiency
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