What is anemia?
Anemia is decrease in red blood cells in blood, which can lead to a lack of oxygen-carrying ability and causing unusual tiredness. The deficiency occurs either through the reduced production or an increased loss of red blood cells. Red blood cells are produced in the Bone marrow, and their average life expectancy is about 120 days.
To produce red blood cells, the body needs (among other things) iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid. If there is a lack of one or more of these ingredients,
anemia will develop.
Signs & Symptoms
The symptoms such as tiredness and general weakness will be similar to those of any other type of
anemia. In severe cases, the woman will be short of breath even at rest.
If the anemia is prolonged, other signs of iron-deficiency anemia may develop such as a smooth shiny tongue and tenderness of the skin at the corners of the mouth. However, these advanced signs are rare.
Routine blood tests during ante natal care shows low hemoglobin concentration as well as the characteristic small, pale red blood cells under the microscope (in the case of iron deficiency
The diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia can be confirmed by measuring the amount of storage iron as well as the levels of iron binding proteins in the blood. The diagnosis of folate deficiency is confirmed by estimating the red blood cell folate levels.
Course of anemia
Patients with severe anemia are more likely to delivery early and have small babies. Women with severe
anemia may have symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and headaches.
Birth is also associated with blood loss. Therefore, if a woman is
anemic, she should take iron for several months after delivery in order to help the body replace the lost blood cells and iron stores. Breast feeding women may also need to take iron because iron is lost in breast milk.
As long as the anemia is treated and corrected, there should be no problems.
A well balanced diet is always recommended but iron and folate supplementation is indicated in pregnancy.
When the anemia is caused by lack of iron, it is treated with iron supplements, preferably ferrous sulphate tablets. These supplements should not be taken more than twice daily, since the side effects of iron are increased in doses of more than two daily. The side effects are stomach upsets and constipation which are problematic in pregnancy.
If the anemia is due to folic acid deficiency, it is treated with folic acid supplements.