What is anemia in pregnancy?

Anemia is when the percentage of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in the blood is reduced. The hemoglobin, i.e. the red blood pigment, can also be reduced, which also indicates anemia. Women often suffer from anemia, especially during pregnancy.

The main reason for this is that the body has an increased need for iron and blood during pregnancy. If blood production is not yet adjusted to the new requirements, anemia can quickly develop during pregnancy.

The reasons

The causes of anemia during pregnancy are diverse. The most common reason is an increased need for red blood cells (erythrocytes) and red blood pigment (hemoglobin). As a result, the body's need for iron is also increased. If the diet is not adjusted to meet the needs quickly enough, red blood cell and hemoglobin deficiencies quickly develop, which leads to anemia. A decrease in iron storage can also be a reason for anemia during pregnancy. If the body does not manage to store enough iron, it cannot be used to build up the red blood pigment. This, in turn, cannot be used to make red blood cells, leading to anemia.

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In rarer cases, blood loss also plays a role in the development of anemia. However, this type of anemia is more common in non-pregnant women because the monthly menstrual period can lead to increased blood loss, which can lead to anemia.

If more red blood cells are broken down in the spleen during pregnancy, this leads to a reduced survival time for these erythrocytes. This reduces the total amount of red blood cells, which can also lead to anemia.

Find out all about the topic here: The anemia.

Symptoms of anemia

Anemia during pregnancy is initially expressed in very unspecific symptoms. These can usually be explained by the small amount of red blood cells and red blood pigment.

The red blood pigment (hemoglobin) is responsible for the transport of oxygen in the blood. It absorbs the oxygen from the lungs and transports it to the organs of the body. If there is anemia during pregnancy, the oxygen supply to the organs is reduced. As a result, there is increased fatigue (low supply of the brain) and poor performance (low supply of the muscles). Breathlessness and heart problems during exercise can also indicate anemia. They indicate an overload of the two organs - the heart and the lungs. They are especially important for supplying the body with blood and oxygen. Due to the reduced amount of red blood pigment, affected people also often appear pale.

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Anemia during pregnancy can also lead to symptoms in the child. This can be noticeable, for example, when the child is restless.

Symptoms of Anemia? Read more about this here.

The diagnosis

The diagnosis is initially based on the anamnesis, in which typical symptoms of anemia can be determined. A blood sample is then taken to identify possible causes. The number of erythrocytes (red blood cells) in the blood and the red blood pigment are measured. Laboratory values ​​can also provide information on how heavily the erythrocytes are loaded with hemoglobin, the red blood pigment.

For example, an iron deficiency leads to a lower amount of hemoglobin in the erythrocytes, which makes the red blood cells particularly small. Iron metabolism enzymes such as transferrin and ferritin can also be determined in the blood.

Find out more about the topic here: The iron deficiency anemia.

The treatment

The most important therapy for anemia is treatment of the underlying disease. In the case of anemia during pregnancy, the pregnancy is usually the cause of the anemia. It is not important to treat the pregnancy yourself - rather, eating habits should be adapted to the changed needs of the body.

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Since iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia during pregnancy, a sufficient supply of iron is of the greatest importance. Basically, this should be achieved through a balanced diet during pregnancy. However, if anemia does occur, iron tablets can also be taken. The choice of the suitable preparation should be discussed with a gynecologist. If a rapid increase in iron levels is necessary, this can be done through an iron infusion.

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In severe anemia caused by bleeding (so-called haemolytic anemia), the bleeding should first be stopped. Iron can then be given - if there is severe blood deficiency, a blood transfusion may also be necessary.

You can find more information at: Treatment of anemia.

How dangerous is this for my baby and what consequences can it have for the child?

In many cases, anemia during pregnancy has a negative effect on the child. For example, a lack of folic acid can disrupt embryonic development. If the anemia is severe, the children cannot thrive. They may be able to be born smaller and lighter, which can add further complications after birth.

The risk of premature birth also increases with anemia during pregnancy. The child is supplied with oxygen exclusively through the maternal blood. Consequently, anemia during pregnancy also leads to a reduced amount of oxygen in the child. This can affect the development of individual organs. The brain, heart and kidneys are particularly affected - they are sensitive to an insufficient supply of oxygen.

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If the anemia is successfully treated during pregnancy, there is usually no long-term damage to the child. Instead, it can catch up even during pregnancy and come into the world as a healthy child.

On the other hand, if the anemia therapy is not given in time, this can lead to permanent damage. The child's brain is particularly affected, as it depends on sufficient oxygen for proper development.

The consequences for the mother

In the mother, the consequences of anemia during pregnancy are initially not serious. Most of the time there is a reduction in quality of life - affected mothers are tired and their productivity is limited. In addition, headaches, difficulty concentrating and muscle problems can occur. However, as the pregnancy progresses, the complications can become more severe as the body becomes increasingly stressed.

Anemia can make pregnancy more difficult and, as a result of damage to the child, also endanger the mother. In addition, there can be an increased tendency to bleed at birth, which necessitates more intensive treatment and in the worst case can be life-threatening. Fortunately, such severe anemia occurs in very rare cases.


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