What is anemia in pregnancy?

Anemia is a fairly common pregnancy condition and occurs when you have low levels of hemoglobin in your blood. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to your body tissues through red blood cells. Pregnant women often become anemic as a result of normal changes in their bodies. Fortunately, in most cases, mild anemia is not harmful to either mother or baby. It's important to get screened during pregnancy in order to prevent more severe anemia. Screening for the condition is usually done early in the pregnancy, then again between the 24th and 28th weeks.

The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency because your body uses iron to make hemoglobin. Other common anemias are related to folic acid deficiency, blood loss and genetic illnesses such as sickle cell disease.

In the early weeks of pregnancy a woman's blood volume increases to meet the new demands on the circulatory system due to the developing placenta and fetus. However the increase in the plasma volume is greater than the increase in the red-blood cell volume. The result is a physiologic anemia or a drop in the woman's hematocrit and hemoglobin counts.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.