Expecting a baby? You might be at risk for anaemia


Being pregnant and giving birth can be a beautiful experience; it does, however, come with its fair share of complications.

Your body goes through various changes and adjustments to accommodate the growth and development of your baby.

According to the American Society of Haematology the blood supply in your body increases by 20 to 30%.

In order to create healthy red blood cells your body needs an adequate supply of iron and vitamins.

Red blood cells

Red blood cells help to transport the oxygen in the lungs to the rest of the body. Without enough red blood cells you are at risk for anaemia.

Most pregnant women experience slight anaemia due to their increase in blood. Having mild anaemia may present symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness and weakness.

Pregnant women may encounter three different kinds of anaemia. These are iron-deficiency, folate-deficiency and vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia. Iron, folate and vitamin B12 are absorbed by the body through foods rich in these vitamins and minerals.

Should the anaemia progress and become more severe, the lives of both mother and child may be at risk. During the pregnancy the baby may be at risk of having neural tube defects. The baby may also be pre-term and have a low birth weight. The mother may also have to undergo a blood transfusion after the birth as a result of blood loss. Growing up, the baby may experience developmental defects and delays, as well as suffering from anaemia.

How to combat anaemia

Here are some ways you can combat anaemia during pregnancy:

1. Eat foods high in folic acid

When pregnant, your baby absorbs most of your folic acid and this can lead to a folate deficiency. To improve your folic-acid levels you should eat foods that are high in this vitamin. These include green, leafy vegetables, beans, bananas and pasta. 

Food rich in folic acid, top view

2. Take your prenatal multi-vitamins

Taking prenatal vitamins can help to combat anaemia as well as other deficiencies experienced during pregnancy. Because your baby is absorbing most of your nutrients and minerals, you need to make sure that you have enough to sustain both of you. 

Pregnant woman holding vitamins in her hand

3. Cooking with cast-iron pots

Cooking with cast-iron pots adds a significant amount of iron to your food. These pots and pans require less oil and are safer than modern cookware, thereby making them healthier for you and your baby. 

High angle view of a black cast iron pan with some

4. Eat foods high in vitamin C

These include different citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli and kiwis. However, it is not recommended that you take too much. High doses of vitamin C may put your baby at risk of preterm birth. 

Sources of Vitamin C - oranges, strawberries, red

5. Avoid foods that inhibit iron absorption 

If you are anaemic, you need to increase the amount of iron in your blood stream. Eating and drinking foods like cocoa, coffee, herbal teas and foods that are rich in calcium inhibits your body's ability to absorb enough iron. Try and reduce your intake of these foods. 

Cocoa Beans and Cocoa Powder with Chocolate Bars o

Image credit: iStock

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