What is Iron
Iron deficiency anemia
occurs when there is not enough iron in the blood. Iron
is an important building block for hemoglobin, the part
of red blood cells that carries oxygen.
In pregnancy, the amount
of blood in the body must increase by almost 50% to feed
the growing baby. As a result, the mother’s body starts
to make blood at a faster pace. Sometimes the need for iron
is greater than the amount stored in the body. The result
is iron deficiency anemia. Approximately 20% of pregnant
women have anemia.
How Will I
Know if I am Anemic?
Most of the time women
don’t know they are anemic. Because anemia is so common,
doctors and midwives usually check the blood for anemia
during the first prenatal visit. Sometimes they will repeat
the test at about 28 weeks of pregnancy, or whenever there
is a concern that the woman may be anemic.
The most common symptom
of anemia is excessive tiredness. If anemia is severe, women
may also experince dizziness, fainting, fast or irregular
heartbeat, pale skin or shortness of breath.
How is Anemia
Anemia caused by lack
of iron is usually treated with iron tablets. If your doctor
or midwife prescribes iron, take it with food to prevent
nausea. Avoid taking iron with milk because the calcium
prevents it from being used by your body. On the other hand,
taking your iron pill with orange juice (or another source
of vitamin C) will help it be absorbed more easily.
Sometimes the iron tablets
can make your bowel movements dark-colored or even black.
This color is from extra iron that was not absorbed in your
body. It is not dangerous. Iron may also cause constipation
or diarrhea. Talk with your doctor or midwife if this is
a problem for you.
What Can I
Do to Prevent Anemia?
The best sources of
iron are the foods you eat. By eating foods that are high
in iron and vitamin C, you may be able to prevent anemia.
Some iron-rich foods are: