Anaemia in pregnancy is a health problem that affects almost half of all pregnant women globally. A risk factor for maternal and foetal morbidity, pregnancy-related anaemia can be distinguished through a deficiency of three separate nutrients – vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron.
One of the primary causes of anaemia in pregnancy is a lack of iron in the body. Your body requires iron to produce haemoglobin, responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. If there isn’t enough iron in the body, then the amount of haemoglobin will drop.
At the same time, an inadequate intake of folic acid and vitamin B12, which support the production of red blood cells, can also cause iron-deficiency anaemia. This can cause a pregnant woman to experience symptoms that include:
- Chest pain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Heart palpitations
“Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) belief, blood and qi deficiency can cause anaemia in pregnancy,” says Eu Yan Sang Associate Senior TCM physician Lin Jia Yi. The organs related to this are the heart, the spleen, and the liver.
Physician Lin explains, “These three organs work closely together. It starts with the spleen producing qi and blood. The heart focuses on circulating blood throughout the body and finally the liver storing and regulating the blood flow.”
Fortunately, understanding the risk factors of anaemia in pregnancy and identifying suitable treatment options can help you to fight off the disorder effectively.
Common Risk Factors of Pregnancy-Related Anaemia
There are several risk factors that commonly relates to anaemia in pregnancy. These include a higher requirement for iron intake, especially for a woman who is pregnant with twins or triplets.
If you were diagnosed with anaemia during your previous pregnancy or diagnosed with an inflammatory disorder that impairs the ability to absorb iron from foods, you might have a higher risk of having anaemia in pregnancy. Some other conditions that require more attention are:
- Having a pre-existing blood disorder like thalassaemia or sickle cells disease
- Being under the age of 20 before becoming pregnant
- Delivering a child less than a year before the current pregnancy
- Having low levels of iron in your body prior to the pregnancy
Effective Ways to Treat Pregnancy-Related Anaemia
There are a few ways to treat anaemia in pregnancy effectively. The choice of treatment is highly dependent on the type of anaemia that a pregnant woman has been diagnosed with.
1. Plan a healthy diet
A nutritionally balanced diet is essential for ensuring optimal iron absorption by the body. The body most easily absorbs iron through the consumption of red meat, fish and poultry.
For vegetarians, the best way to absorb iron is to consume fortified cereals, leafy vegetables or lentils. However, you should supplement a vegetarian diet with foods high in vitamin C to absorb iron efficiently.
When you have blood and qi deficiencies, “red dates and longan tea can help nourish the blood and calm the mind. You can also add astragalus to improve your qi,” suggests physician Lin.
In addition, bird’s nest drink is abundant in essential nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy. You can make a beverage for 2 to 3 people by steeping a single piece of bird’s nest in warm water for 2 hours or until it has expanded and softened. Next, place the softened bird’s nest in a double boiler with 400 ml of water and approximately 40 g of cane sugar for three hours before consuming.
2. Get iron supplements
Iron supplements can also help to ensure that you get a sufficient intake of the nutrient during pregnancy. You can take iron supplements orally or through intramuscular or intravenous injections. You should to start taking iron supplements prior to conception or during the early stages of pregnancy, as it can help reduce the risk of premature birth or low birth weight.
Depending on your health condition during pregnancy, you can opt to consume beetroot juice once or three times daily to prevent anaemia. Pick a health beverage that is 100% organic and contains a high amount of iron and natural betacyanins, because it’s vital for replenishing your blood and aiding liver detoxification.
3. Support with folic acid supplements
Your body will require a higher intake of folic acid during pregnancy. This is because folic acid can help to support the healthy growth and development of your foetus. In addition, dietary supplementation with folic acid is associated with a significantly reduced risk of neural tube defects – birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord.
Folic acid supplementation can also help prevent premature birth, which can put a newborn at risk of short-term respiratory, gastrointestinal, immunologic, and central nervous system complications. It can also reduce a newborn’s risk of long-term motoric, cognitive, and neurobehavioural abnormalities.
4. Add vitamin B12 supplements or intramuscular injections
An adequate intake of vitamin B-complex during pregnancy is necessary to prevent poor foetal growth and promote healthy functioning of the nerves.
It can also be administered as an intramuscular injection. This method usually involves a prescription from a doctor. It is used to treat a deficiency caused by pernicious anaemia or other health conditions.
Identifying the cause of anaemia in pregnancy will enable you to decide on suitable treatment options. It’s time to equip yourself with enough information, as it can help you make the right decisions if you develop this health disorder during pregnancy.
- Oxford University Hospitals. Iron deficiency anaemia in pregnancy. [Accessed 4 July 2021]
- US National Library of Medicine. 2015. The impact of maternal iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia on child’s health. [Accessed 4 July 2021]
- US National Library of Medicine. 2011. Folic Acid Supplementation and Pregnancy: More Than Just Neural Tube Defect Prevention. [Accessed 4 July 2021]
- National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B12. [Accessed 4 July 2021]