The symptoms of anemia in pregnancy can range from none at all to severe. As the condition progresses, those affected by the condition may begin to notice fatigue, weakness, and headache. Other symptoms of anemia in pregnancy include cold hands and feet, pale skin, chest pain, and irritability.
Anemia is diagnosed when a woman has a low level of red blood cells. During pregnancy, this is especially concerning because red blood cells help transport oxygen to both the mother and the developing fetus. Testing is usually completed throughout the pregnancy to check for anemia.
There are various causes of the development of anemia in pregnancy. For pregnant women, low iron levels are the leading cause of anemia. Other causes include illness and disease, such as sickle cell anemia.
During the initial stages of pregnancy, a woman may not know she has anemia. Symptoms may not be present and testing may not confirm anemia. As the baby begins to develop and requires more blood and oxygen, symptoms may begin to emerge.
Symptoms begin to become noticeable as the body tries to compensate for the increased need for blood and oxygen. This includes symptoms such as fatigue and weakness. Those in the early stages of anemia in pregnancy or those with severe anemia may also begin to experience headaches.
Other symptoms may become more noticeable as the condition progresses. This includes the possibility of cold hands and feet due to the lack of circulation and shortness of breath due to the lack of oxygenated blood being delivered to the lungs. Additional symptoms include pale skin, rapid heartbeat, and chest pain.
Diagnosis of anemia is typically made during routine exams during pregnancy. Those planning to get pregnant can have testing done during a prenatal exam to test for anemia. Women already pregnant should get a test for anemia between weeks 24 and 28 of her pregnancy. Testing can help identify those with anemia and allow them to make corrections to help prevent the risks associated with anemia in pregnancy. These risks include low birth weight and preterm birth.
Various precautions can be taken to help limit the chances of developing anemia and the associated symptoms and risks. Taking a prenatal vitamin can help limit the possibility of experiencing low iron levels during pregnancy. In addition, eating a diet high in iron will also help stave off the development of anemia. Foods high in iron include oatmeal, spinach, and nuts.