Pregnancy anemia

Being pregnant greatly changes your daily needs for nutrients of all kinds as the baby is in formation and getting what they need from your supply. It's not your baby that risks a lack, it's you! And one of the risks of deficiency incurred during this period concerns iron and may cause pregnancy anemia.

Anemia and iron deficiency are quite common during pregnancy. Anemia occurs if your blood does not contain enough hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Anemia can literally deprive your body of the oxygen it needs to survive.

  • Normal blood hemoglobin concentrations are between 11.5 and 16g / 100ml for women.
  • Concentrations below 10g / 100ml can cause headaches, fatigue and lethargy.
  • Concentrations below 8g / 100ml can cause serious health complications.
Symptoms of anemia

Warning: Often, there are no symptoms

  • Pallor
  • Feeling tired
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Increased shortness of breath during exercise
  • Accelerated heart rate

Often, the symptoms appear gradually, so you do not notice a sudden drop in energy.


Anemia is directly linked to a lack of vitamin B12 or folic acid and some chronic diseases. But the most common cause by far, especially in pregnant women, is the lack of iron in the blood.

Iron is an essential mineral substance in the production of hemoglobin. Anemia caused by iron deficiency is called iron deficiency anemia.

  • A diet low in iron (diets, vegetarianism)
  • Frequent consumption of tea and coffee
  • Frequent blood donations (3 or more per year)
  • Some drugs like Aspirin and anti-inflammatories
  • The iron requirements of the pregnant woman are higher because of the increase in the total number of globules, the needs of the fetus and the placenta and the blood loss at the time of delivery.
  • Blood loss is the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia in women, especially those with heavy menstrual periods.

Our body needs 1 to 4 mg of iron a day and a good diet provides an average of 10 to 20 mg per day, which will be absorbed in a proportion of 5 to 10%, which is enough to meet the needs. During pregnancy, the daily iron requirement increases substantially: 5 mg more per day during the second trimester and 10 mg more during the third trimester.

9 out of 10 women do not consume the recommended amount of iron. In total, 10% of women suffer from anemia.


A simple blood test can diagnose anemia.


Even mild or moderate anemia may be associated with premature labor, low birth weight, and even fetal death.


The iron requirements during the first, second and third trimester of pregnancy are 13, 18 and 23 mg, respectively. Unfortunately, the body only retains a small amount of the iron contained in food, but it is easier to assimilate the iron contained in meat.

To maximize the iron absorption of food, here are some recommendations:

  • Eat in the same meal a little meat and vegetables rich in iron.
  • Take high vitamin C tablets or eat foods rich in vitamin C along with iron-rich foods
  • Take iron tablets at mealtimes.
  • Cook your food in cast iron pans.
  • Some foods affect the absorption of iron: coffee, tea, yolk, milk, fiber and soy protein.
Iron-rich foods
  • liver and other meats, especially red meat
  • seafood and fish (eg sardines)
  • dried fruits such as apricots, plums, figs and raisins
  • nuts
  • legumes, especially Lima beans
  • green leafy vegetables such as spinach, parsley, asparagus and broccoli
  • the dark molasses
  • whole grain cereals
Tofu 1/2 cup 7 mg
Cooked spinach 1 cup 6.5 mg
Cooked lima beans 1 cup 4.5 mg
Beef Liver 90 g 5.3 mg
Shrimp 105 g 4 mg
Beef 90 g 3 mg
Sardines 90 g 3 mg
Broccoli 1 cup 2 mg
Cantaloup 1/2 1 mg
Tomato 1 1 mg
Whole milk 1 cup 0.2 mg


Foods rich in vitamin B12
  • meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • seafood
  • milk and cheese
  • eggs

A Swedish study found that women who took iron and vitamin supplements were significantly less likely to give birth before 38 weeks of pregnancy (6% to 9% of births) than women who did not take supplements (11%). % to 13% of births).

Health Canada

If you take iron tablets

It can be dangerous to take iron tablets without first talking to your doctor. In addition, if you take iron before seeing your doctor, it will be difficult to diagnose anemia and its underlying causes.

  • Take them at mealtimes. Go step by step. Start with one capsule a day for three to five days, then two tablets a day until you take the amount recommended by your doctor.
  • Increase the amount of fiber in your food and drink lots of water to avoid constipation. If you have problems with iron tablets, talk to your doctor. They will advise you on another formula or another trademark.
  • Take care to store your iron tablets in a safe place. Iron poisoning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in children because iron tablets often look like candies.

Source: College of Family Physicians of Canada, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D), Health Canada, The Anemia Institute.


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