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Will anaemia during pregnancy affect the fetus?

Q: I am 26 weeks pregnant. Last week I had sugar, haemogram and a urine test. My haemoglobin is 9. Previously when blood test was done it was 11.5. I was taking Livogen for iron supply, but stopped it due to constipation (for last 3 weeks). Will there be any harm to my baby and me during delivery?

A:Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the amount of haemoglobin is below normal for age and sex of the individual. It is defined as a decrease in red blood cell (RBC) mass and is usually discovered and quantified by measurement of the RBC count, haemoglobin (Hb) concentration, and hematocrit (Hct). Anaemia is suggested in males with Hb levels less than 13.0 g/dl and in females with Hb levels less than 12.0 g/dl (less than 11.5 g/dl in pregnant women). It may be due to decreased production of red blood cells, blood loss (haemorrhage) or red cell breakdown (haemolysis). Anaemia is a symptom of disease that requires investigation to determine the underlying cause. It is twice as common in women than in men, especially during the childbearing years due to menstrual blood loss and pregnancies. One of the commonest cause of anaemia in our country is nutritional deficiency - iron deficiency &/or folic acid/vitamin B12 deficiency. Even if a woman is not anaemic at the time of pregnancy, she may still develop anaemia as the pregnancy progresses due to increased demands of the developing baby. There are certain risk factors for women being anaemic and these include: poor nutrition, inadequate gap between pregnancies, persistent nausea or vomiting in early pregnancy and twin pregnancy. The loss of iron (elemental) with each normal menses is around 12-15 mg. A normal diet must include 1.5-2 mg/day of elemental iron to compensate for menstrual losses alone. In pregnancy, 500 mg of additional iron is needed by the mother (to expand her red cell mass) while another 500 mg is needed for the baby and placental tissues. Thus, on an average, an additional 3 mg/day of elemental iron must be absorbed from dietary sources. The amount of iron absorbed by the body is only 10% of the total amount consumed, thus 30 mg/day needs to be consumed to meet the requirement. An iron deficient mother can have premature labour, intrauterine growth retardation (poor development of baby), and severe anaemia due to normal blood loss during delivery and increased susceptibility to infection. The likelihood of postpartum transfusion may be reduced if a woman enters the birth with a higher haemoglobin level. Please talk to your doctor and start oral iron and vitamin B12 supplements. These will continue till the time you breast feed the baby. Get a complete blood count done to document the anaemia and response to therapy.

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