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  • 15 Must-Knows Of Being Anemic During Pregnancy

    Anemia is really not that uncommon in regular every day people. However, some people have never heard of it until they became pregnant. It's super common, even if a woman was never anemic in her life, to become anemic for the time span of the pregnancy. Being anemic shouldn't affect the pregnancy or the baby as long as moms do what they are told. However, it may take its toll on you.

    The effects can differ depending on the severity of your anemia. If a woman becomes anemic during pregnancy, although in some instances it can be worrisome, there really  isn' t too much to fear. To help your anemia you may be required to take an extra vitamin or increase your intake of a certain food. A woman's best bet is to just listen to her health care provider. The odds are high that a little while after you give birth to your little one, your anemia will go away. In this article we're going to explain what anemia is, how/why you get it, the most common types while pregnant, what it does and the effects it may have on you, and how you can handle it or at least keep the severity of it minimal.

    If you are or become anemic and there are still questions or information that you would like to know about it after reading this, your health care provider can give you a better understanding and answer questions you may have.

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    What's Anemia?

    Anemia is basically, lack of blood. If you think your the only one, trust me, your not. Anemia is so common that there are more than three million cases per year. A sucky part about it is that woman, young children and people who have chronic diseases have an increased risk of having or becoming anemic. This is a condition where your body is lacking the right amount of blood cells or hemoglobin.

    Hemoglobin is the main part of the red blood cell and it binds oxygen. If you have too few red blood cells or abnormal red blood cells that will cause you to be anemic. Also if your hemoglobin level is too low in your red blood cells that will cause you to be anemic. In order to know weather or not you are or have become anemic, blood is usually drawn and tested. It will usually take several days to get the results back.

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    Getting Tested 

    Every doctor is different but when you find out that you are pregnant, odds are that your doctor/OBYGN will want to test you for anemia sometime in the first trimester and again in the third. Depending on your results you may be tested numerous times that way they can keep a good eye on it and make sure your getting what you need. To know weather or not you have anemia, you DO have to be diagnosed by a health care provider.

    An anemic test consist of getting your blood drawn. I hope that doesn't freak you out because that's one of the many times you will be poked and pried with a kneeled lol. What they are looking at is your complete blood count which is the number of blood cells in a sample. In this case your doctor will be checking the amount of red blood cells with in the sample and the amount of hemoglobin in those red blood cells.

    They will also be looking at the shape and size of your bloods cells because they can be an unusual size and shape. If your levels come back abnormal or the shape/size of your blood cells are abnormal you will be diagnosed with anemia. Depending on the severity you have to get further testing done.

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    Why Pregnancy Raises The Risk 

    When you are pregnant its common that you may develop anemia. I've already explained what anemia is but, cut and dry, being anemic means that your body doesn't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues and to your baby. Starting from the moment you conceive, your body starts to create more and more blood to support the extra life inside you. Without the right amount of iron or the lack of certain nutrients, your body may not be able to make the extra blood cells it needs for your baby. Its normal to have a temporary case of anemia while your pregnant. When I was pregnant I became anemic. The closer it got to those nine months the more and more anemic I got. My doctor had to keep increasing my iron intake. I think it was only a couple months after delivering my son, my anemia was gone.

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    Iron-deficiency Anemia

    There are a few types of anemia that you can get while pregnant. Iron-deficiency is one of them. This type of anemia happens when your body does not have enough iron. Iron in your body produces the hemoglobin in your red blood cells, which carries oxygen through out your body. Iron-deficiency anemia is when the red blood cells don't have enough hemoglobin/oxygen to carry to the tissues and organs in your body. If you develop this type of anemia after discovering you are pregnant, you are only one in a million. More people than not, if asked, will tell you that they had anemia during their pregnancy. The most common type of anemia in pregnant women is iron-deficiency. A few reasons you can develop this type of anemia is if you are not getting enough iron intake in the foods that you consume, if you have bleeding internal bleeding, or plain and simple, your body just doesn't absorb iron very well.

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    Folate-deficiency Anemia

    Folate is a type of B vitamin naturally found in Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. The body needs enough folate to develop healthy new cells including the red blood cell. When people think of folate they think of the term folic acid, which indeed do go hand in hand. Folic acid is a form of folate and is responsible or creating DNA and other genetic materials for our bodies and also to help create your growing baby's. Folate is also needed in order for cells to divide, again something that is required for creating your baby. A well known fact is that during pregnancy woman need extra folate. This in one of many vitamins that are included in your prenatal vitamin. A lot of times woman don't get the amount that they need from their regular diet. When this happens there is lack of red blood cells causing you to have Folate-deficiency Anemia.

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    Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

    Another thing known for causing anemia. Lack of the b-12  vitamin can also cause a nervous system injury and other symptoms like hair loss. The body needs vitamin b-12 to from new healthy red blood cells. When a pregnant woman doesn't consume the right amount of b-12 in her diet, her body will not be able to produce the right amount of blood cells needed to support her self and the new life growing inside her. Woman that do not eat meat, dairy products and/or eggs will be at  a higher risk for vitamin b-12 deficiency. This can result if preterm labor and some other birth defects, ill go into details later on. There are a lots  of foods with the vitamin b-12 in them such as, red meats, eggs, cheese, low fat dairy, fortified soy products, shellfish, liver, fish, crab, and fortified cereals. It shouldn't be to hard to maintain the right amount of b-12 in your body.

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    Symptoms

    In iron-deficiency anemia you may notice that you feel weak, dizzy, grumpy or cranky, have head aches, look pale, feel winded or out of breath, or you may have trouble concentrating. You might not notice these symptoms because you might just have a mild case of anemia. In fact depending on the severity of your anemia you may not have any symptoms or notice the difference at all unless it gets worst. If you have folate-deficiency you may feel fatigue, weak, lethargy, short of breath, irritable and you may have pale skin. If you are experiencing vitamin B-12 deficiency the symptoms include memory loss, numbness, shortness of breath, tingling in feet, poor balance and fatigue. A lot of people don't notice that they are anemic because a lot of these symptoms are also the same as pregnancy symptoms, that's why its overlooked by mommies to be. If you have any feelings of concern, you should address it with your doctor.

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    Pregnancy and Delivery

    Typically woman with iron deficiency anemia will have shorter pregnancies then woman without anemia, or even anemia but not the iron deficiency anemia. Studies have shown that woman with anemia during pregnancy have a higher risk of pre-term labor then non anemic mommies. Iron deficiency anemia itself, has twice the risk then any other anemia. The more severe the anemia is the greater chances there are for low birth weight. Poor plasma expansion is also another factor that can result in a low birth weight baby. You need a lot of endurance and some severe physical effort when it comes time to actually bring your baby into the world. Physically "fit" women with no anemia tend to perform better and undergo less complications in general when delivering their baby. With severe anemia, it isn't uncommon for cardiac failure to occur during delivery. This could result in death during or after delivery.

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    Lactation

    Many mommies will worry that being anemic will cause a problem in their lactation. Weather their milk may not have enough of the vitamins a nutrients that it needs or maybe their milk supply will be lessened. Good news mommies, this is one thing you shouldn't have to worry about if your anemic. Odds are your little one will get just as much as they would have if you weren't anemic. Your nutritional value may be a little less in the iron department but you can ask your doctor, if they aren't already, to keep an eye on your little ones iron levels and compensate if needed. There has been zero evidence that being a mother with any type of anemia makes you less competent in milk production then any other breast feeding mommy without it. Even in the best circumstances, sometimes the iron in breast milk can be insufficient to keep the right amount of iron in infants beyond four to six months old.

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    The Baby

    There has been a giant study involving over 100,000 pregnancies that shows that favorable outcomes in pregnancies and deliveries are less common in mothers who have anemia. This study also found that the rates of fetal deaths, abnormalities, premature deaths and low birth weight in newborns are way higher in woman who where diagnosed with anemia. The risks where clear, even for women who only had anemia during the first half of their pregnancy. The relationship between the severity of anemia and premature birth and/or low birth weight is super evident. the worst your anemia is, the higher your risk is for problems. You will be glad to know that treatment for anemia during pregnancy is usually successful with extra iron and/or folic acid. Low birth weight in newborns due to anemia has been lowered from fifty percent to five percent and prenatal mortality dropped from thirty-eight percent to only four percent. So in reality there's not too much to worry about.

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    Development

    How your baby is growing and developing is one thing that's always on mom's mind from the day she finds out she is pregnant without the extra worry of a health issue. It starts over again after the baby arrives and all those milestones are expected. You may be worried about the development of your child when you have had anemia during your pregnancy. One thing to think about is that a low birth weight baby may have a disadvantage in the real world where death, malnutrition, and infections are a concern. Another thing you should be concerned about is that iron deficiency anemia in both children and adults can tend to produce alteration in brain functions. This could possibly result in poor mother-child interactions and trouble during schooling in later years. There is more and more evidence showing that infants with iron deficiency anemia may suffer from long term learning disabilities.

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    Iron Nutrition and Hematological Status

    Image result for child playing doctor

    Hematology is the branch of medical science that deals with diseases in the blood and blood forming tissues. When any type of maternal anemia is mild, it will most likely have little to no effect on the hematological status of your newborn. It's been seen but not proven for sure that placental transferring receptors (helps transfer things from mom to baby in womb) protect the baby's hematological status. The iron transfer from the placenta to your baby is limited by a threshold mechanism, meaning that there is a good chance for fetal iron deficiency to occur when there is severe maternal anemia. It doesn't help that naturally the fetus of an iron deficient mom has less iron reserves and has a smaller amount of hemoglobin then other normal, non anemic mommies. When your baby develops anemia in the womb, its known as "Hidden Iron Dificit" and is more times than not accompanied by low birth weight due to pre-term birth.

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    Signs In Children

    I have covered a lot about anemia and what it is, the long and short term effects that it can have, the types and different severities, symptoms, and how to help treat it. Surely by now you know how to tell if you have or may have anemia. If you have a severe case or if you were anemic pre-pregnancy, there is a chance that your child could be born with it. Lack of iron may have an effect on your child's ability to function. If your child has a lack of iron the symptoms will most likely not be noticeable unless they are or become anemic. Signs in children differ a little but are similar to those of adults. Things to look out for are pale skin, weakness, fussiness, unable to focus, slow social development, swelling of the tongue, inability to maintain body temp, if they are sick a lot (virus or infections), and cravings for abnormal things such as dirt, ice or starch. Its important that you observe and say something to your little ones health care provider if you feel he/she may have anemia, so that it can get under control.

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    Keep The Baby From Becoming Anemic

    There are a few ways that will help reduce the chance of your little one getting anemia weather you have/had it or not. Breast feeding or using formula with added iron will help keep up their iron levels. Iron from breast milk is absorbed easier then the iron in formula. But if you cant breast feed use iron fortified milk. When they start eating solids, make sure you feed them food with added iron. Baby cereal with fortified iron is a good example. When they are even older make sure they eat some red meat, chicken, fish, beans, and dark green leafy vegetables, these foods are high in iron. Also a decent amount of vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Foods that are rich in vitamin C include melon, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes. If your baby was born pre-mature and/or with a low birth weight or your breast feeding your baby that is over four months, if they aren't getting at least two servings of iron rich foods a day, talk to their doctor about putting your baby on an oral iron supplement.

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    To Wrap It Up

    We hope this article doesn't scare you or make you nervous, as if you aren't already thinking of everything that could go wrong. Its always better to be safe, aware, and have knowledge about things that could happen or go wrong. Having knowledge about things that could be a possible issue during your pregnancy will make you feel more comfortable and help you notice and recognize the symptoms, also know what to expect if you come across them. This will ensure that you are prepared and know what to do if you happen to be diagnosed with anemia during your pregnancy. Yes, in rare cases it could be fatal, cause short/long term disability, or some difficulty during delivery, but now a days if it is "corrected", meaning you do what your doc tells you to do after your diagnosed, the odds of there actually being any problems are very slim. Best wishes for a happy, healthy pregnancy and baby.

    Sources: Unsystem.org, MayoClinic, WedMD.com, WhatToExpect.com, Healthline.com, HopkinsMedicine.org 

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