Anaemia during pregnancy

Having a baby is a wonderful and blissful experience. But what must be well taken care of during pregnancy and childbirth is the status of the mother’s health. A woman’s health is essential to the good health of her baby. Women who eat well and exercise regularly along with prenatal care are less likely to have complications during pregnancy.

One of the major problems during pregnancy is anaemia.

Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs, which vary by age, sex, altitude, smoking, and pregnancy status.

Anaemia in pregnancy due to iron deficiency is recognised as a major health problem globally, with 74 per cent prevalence in South East Asia.

The prevalence of anaemia in Nepal is around 80 per cent among pregnant women. Approximately 85-90 per cent of anaemia in pregnancy is due to iron deficiency. Low dietary intake of iron and its poor availability in nutrition is responsible for anaemia.

Iron-deficiency anaemia is a type of blood disorder. The body needs iron to build red blood cells and keep haemoglobin at the right level for oxygen transport. If the body lacks the iron, pregnant women become anaemic and need extra iron to support the placenta and the growing baby.

It’s normal to have mild anaemia without symptoms during pregnancy but tiredness is common. It’s common to feel tired during pregnancy so many women don’t realise the lack of iron is making them feel more tired than normal. Fatigue and weakness are common in severe anaemia including shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, pale complexion, palpitation and weakness.

It’s normal to feel worried about being diagnosed with anaemia but mild anaemia diagnosed and treated early shouldn’t pose a problem during pregnancy. It is believed that anaemia in pregnancy is more of a concern if it’s severe, untreated or lasts a long time.

Iron requirement increases in pregnancy due to demands of the foetus and increase in the blood volume. However, iron stores are low in the great majority of women in our country due to poor diet, low in iron, chronic blood loss from injuries and infections. Government efforts to distribute iron and folic acid supplements to all pregnant women in the country have been adding a value but still, many rural women lack access to health care facilities.