The Importance of Prenatal Screenings for Anemia
Regularly scheduled prenatal visits help pregnant women and their unborn babies be healthy during the various stages of growth and development. There are many different prenatal tests that are recommended, such as screenings for gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, anemia, and bacteria in the urine.
The purpose of these tests is to screen for potential issues with the pregnancy or possible birth defects. If prenatal issues are caught early, there is a better chance that they can be treated without impacting the wellness of the mother or baby.
Here’s why expectant mothers should be screened for anemia on their first prenatal visit and have their iron levels routinely checked throughout a pregnancy.
Why Anemia Occurs During Pregnancy
A woman’s body goes through a tremendous number of changes during pregnancy, including an increase in the amount of blood in her body. The amount of blood present typically increases by about 20 to 30 percent, which means that a woman’s body needs significantly more iron to produce hemoglobin.
Iron deficiencies among pregnant women are most common during the second and third trimesters. Women who are carrying multiple babies, who have very recently had a prior pregnancy, or who had a heavy menstrual flow before they became pregnant are at a higher risk of developing anemia.
Initial Prenatal Screenings and Follow-Up Tests
It is important for pregnant women to have an anemia screening during their very first prenatal visit so that an appropriate treatment plan can be established right away. This test poses no risks to the mother or baby, except for the minor discomfort of having blood drawn.
Even if a woman did not test positive for anemia on her first prenatal visit, it is recommended that she still be retested in the second trimester. Symptoms of anemia often arise in the latter months of a pregnancy. Additional tests may be required based upon the expectant mother’s test results, diet, and medical history.
Risks of Anemia During Pregnancy
One of the biggest risks of having untreated anemia during pregnancy is having a pre-term delivery or delivering a baby with a low birth weight. Babies are healthier when they have the full term to develop. Pregnant women who are anemic run the risk of blood loss during labor. It may also be harder for a pregnant woman to fight off infections if she is anemic.
Anemia Treatment Options for Pregnant Women
Vitamin supplements are frequently recommended by doctors as course of treatment for anemia during pregnancy. However, it is important for pregnant women to discuss the idea of taking iron pills like Fergon with a doctor before starting a new supplement regimen on their own. In very rare and severe cases of anemia, it may be necessary to undergo a blood transfusion.
But throughout pregnancy, women should mostly rely on whole, healthy, and natural foods to get the extra iron their bodies need to sustain both themselves and their babies. Physicians recommend eating at least three servings or 30 milligrams of iron each day during these formative nine months. Iron-rich foods like lean red meats, beans, tofu, broccoli, kale, and eggs can help mothers and babies stay healthy and strong together.
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