Anemia in Pregnancy: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Anemia, a condition characterized by a decrease in the number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood, can present a unique set of challenges during pregnancy. Understanding the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention can help ensure the health and well-being of both mother and baby.


Anemia can be a stealthy condition, especially in its early stages. The symptoms might be so subtle that they are often mistaken for the usual discomforts of pregnancy. Routine blood tests during prenatal visits can help detect anemia, as they measure the percentage of red blood cells in the plasma, the concentration of hemoglobin, and other indicators.

Common symptoms of anemia during pregnancy may include:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Progressive paleness of skin, lips, and nails
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Numbness in hands and feet
  • Low body temperature
  • Shortness of breath during exertion
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Chest pain
  • Irritability

If left untreated, severe anemia may increase the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, the need for blood transfusions during childbirth, postpartum infections, and even postpartum depression. The child may also be at risk of anemia during childhood and, in severe cases, may experience growth retardation.


The diagnosis of anemia during pregnancy is based on the presence of clinical symptoms and the results of laboratory investigations. During the first prenatal visit, a blood test may be used to check for anemia.

The complete blood count (CBC) test measures several parameters, including:

  • Hematocrit value: This measures the percentage of the plasma volume occupied by red blood cells, which is typically decreased in anemia.
  • Ironemia and serum ferritin: These indicate the availability and extent of iron deposits in the body, respectively.
  • Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV): This indicates the size of the red blood cells, pointing out if they are smaller (microcytic anemia) or larger (macrocytic anemia) than normal.

Additional tests may include hemoglobin electrophoresis and measurement of serum B12 and folate levels. Regular blood tests throughout pregnancy can help monitor the condition and manage it effectively.


The primary goal of treating anemia during pregnancy is to reverse the condition. A balanced diet is generally sufficient to ensure the intake of iron and other nutrients. Foods rich in iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid, such as red meat, eggs, fish, legumes, cereals, green leafy vegetables, and dairy products, are recommended.

Animal-based foods contain iron that is more easily assimilated by the body than plant-based foods. The absorption of iron increases when consumed with foods rich in vitamin C.

However, if severe anemia is not linked to nutritional deficiencies, iron and/or folic acid supplements, as well as prenatal vitamins, may be necessary. Oral therapy is the first line of treatment, and it is important to discuss any side effects with your healthcare provider.

In cases of vitamin B12 deficiency, a supplement may also be recommended. Transfusion may be necessary for severe anemia associated with severe constitutional or cardiopulmonary symptoms. Regular blood tests are crucial to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.


Prevention is always better than cure, and this holds true for anemia as well. Good nutrition is the best defense against anemia during pregnancy. Including iron-rich foods in your diet can help ensure your body gets enough iron.

Prenatal vitamins may also be prescribed to ensure adequate intake of folic acid, vitamin B12, and other essential nutrients. Regular prenatal check-ups and blood tests can help in early detection and effective management of anemia during pregnancy, ensuring the health and well-being of both mother and baby.

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The Wellyme Team

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