What is iron deficiency anaemia?
Anaemia occurs when there are lower number of red blood cells than normal in the blood. Anaemia is usually measured by a decrease in the amount of haemoglobin which is the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. When there are a lower number of red blood cells, there is insufficient amount of oxygen provided which is required for the normal functioning cells in the body. The normal range of haemoglobin in non-pregnant women is 12mg/dl.
The most common form of anaemia is iron deficiency anaemia where there is a decrease in the number of red blood cells. This may be due to insufficient amounts of iron in the body contributed by:
- Low amounts of iron in the diet
- Poor absorption of iron by the body
- Side effects of certain medications
- Genetic conditions of loss of blood
Iron is usually obtained from the food in your diet and by recycling iron from old red blood cells
Why are pregnant women predisposed to anaemia?
Pregnant woman or women who are breastfeeding are predisposed to iron deficiency anaemia due to the high iron requirements for the development of the baby.
Approximately 50% of pregnant women suffer from iron deficiency anaemia and this continues after delivery in most women. Since these requirements are difficult to meet at most times through a normal diet, pregnant women carry a considerate risk of developing iron deficiency.
What can be done to address anaemia during pregnancy?
The following steps will be undertaken by your doctor during pregnancy:
- Your haemoglobin status will be determined by your doctor. The normal range of haemoglobin in pregnant women is 11mg/dl and above.
- If you are found to be anaemic, your doctor will prescribe iron supplement and recommend the proper dosage.
- You will need to take the iron supplement along with other antenatal supplement as advised by your doctor.
- When iron supplement is taken continuously, your condition may improve and if not your doctor may evaluate the situation further to rule out other causes such as parasitic infections.
Oral iron supplement
- is sometimes flavoured to masks the metallic taste
- may contain manganese or vitamin C to help with iron absorption
- may contain sorbitol which helps with constipation caused by iron supplementation
Will I suffer from anaemia after delivery?
The following women are at risk of experiencing iron deficiency anaemia after delivery:
- a pregnant woman confirmed as having iron deficiency anaemia
- a pregnant woman who has experienced excessive blood loss during delivery
- a pregnant woman who has experienced multiple births
Do I need to adjust my diet when consuming iron supplement?
The diet of a pregnant woman and a woman who is breastfeeding should include adequate amounts of iron. Red meat, liver and egg yolks are important sources of iron. Some food such as flour, bread, and cereals are fortified with iron.