Anemia in Pregnancy – Basics Simplified!

As you progress through your pregnancy, your baby starts growing! Your body then realizes that it needs more oxygen to sustain the little one growing inside of you. You need more red blood cells (RBC’s) to carry more oxygen.

So, how does your body deal with this growing demand?

A hormone, known as erythropoietin acts on the bone marrow and increases RBC production to about 20-30% more. In non- pregnant women, the normal range varies from 4.2 – 5.4 million cells/ul, as per the NIH (National Institutes of Health).

But when the body is unable to meet the demands, the condition is termed as anemia.

So, why is anemia seen during pregnancy?

Normally, the blood comprises of blood cells (solid part) & the plasma (liquid part). When pregnancy occurs, along with the increase in the RBC production (a major component of the blood cells) there is also an increase in the plasma fluid, leading to dilution of blood called hemodilution.  Since this occurs due to a bodily change, it is known as Physiological anemia. 

Are there other causes of anemia?

Anemia which occurs due is a defect in RBC production is known as pathological anemia. It occurs in cases where there is:

  • a decrease in the production of RBC’s
  • increase in the destruction of RBC’s
  • improper functioning of the RBC’s

What are the main types of pathological anemia that is seen during pregnancy?

Amongst which, iron deficiency anemia is the most commonly seen during pregnancy in Indian women.

How is anemia measured?

Anemia is measured by assessing the level of hemoglobin (Hb) in blood. In your first ante-natal check-up, your gynecologist will ask for a blood test to rule out diseased conditions, one of which is anemia ( if the Hb levels is < 11g/dL of blood).

Anemia is then graded as:

  • Mild anemia: Hb is 10 – 10.9g/dL
  • Moderate anemia: Hb is 7 – 9.9g/dL
  • Severe anemia: Hb <7 g/dL

Anemia can occur during any time of your pregnancy and may leave you weak and tired. If untreated may lead to unwanted complications, the most common being pre-term delivery. Diet is an important source of getting essential vitamins (B12 and folic acid) and minerals (iron) which are required by your RBC’s to mature properly and function well. So, eat well, take your supplements on time and get your routine check-up on time as per your doctor’s orders.






Dr. Aishwarya Rajeev has completed her MDS degree and is currently pursuing her PhD. She is an avid reader and loves to teach and write!

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