Anemia in Pregnancy

Anemia is common problem of pregnancy, affecting nearly 1 in 6 pregnancies in the United States. Anemia is condition of low red blood cells. The most common cause of anemia is an iron deficiency.  

The early stages of anemia often have no symptoms. It is crucial that pregnant women continue to see their healthcare provider for routine blood work.

Some potential complications associated with anemia in pregnancy include:

  • Delivery of a pre-term or low birth weight infant
  • Postpartum depression
  • An infant born anemic
  • An infant born with developmental delays or birth defects

Pregnant women are at increased risk for developing anemia if any of the following conditions apply:

  • Pregnant with multiples
  • Closely spaced pregnancies
  • Intense morning sickness/ nausea and vomiting
  • Pregnant teenager
  • Anemic prior to pregnancy
  • Conditions that limit iron absorption such as Chron’s disease or past gastric bypass surgery
  • Low intake of high iron foods

Some late signs of advanced anemia include:

  • Pale skin, lips, or nails
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble concentrating

If you are pregnant and experiencing any of the symptoms above, alert your healthcare provider right away and request blood work to check for anemia.

There are many things you can do to lessen your chance of developing anemia during your pregnancy:

  • Take your pre-natal vitamin as recommended by your healthcare provider. To increase your iron absorption, take your vitamin with a glass of WIC approved juice.
  • Eat at least 3 servings of iron rich foods daily. Example of iron rich foods include:
    • Lean meats, poultry, and fish
    • Dark green, leafy vegetables
    • Iron rich cereals such as your WIC cereals
    • Beans, lentils, or tofu
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Eggs
  • Eating a diet high in vitamin C also helps to enhance iron absorption, particularly when eaten at the same time as an iron rich food. Examples of foods high in vitamin C include:
    • Citrus fruits and juices
    • Strawberries
    • Kiwis
    • Tomatoes and tomato sauces
    • Bell peppers
  • Avoid drinking coffee or tea with your meals or when taking your vitamin