What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is anaemia?

Iron deficiency anaemia can develop when the blood is short of haemoglobin.

The body uses iron to make haemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. If there's not enough iron, too little haemoglobin is produced, which means the organs don't get enough oxygen.
Mums-to-be often become anaemic – usually in the last trimester of pregnancy – because of the increased demand on their bodies from their growing babies for iron and other vitamins.
You're more susceptible to anaemia if you've had several pregnancies close together, if you suffered with heavy periods before becoming pregnant or if you are vegetarian.

What are the symptoms of Anaemia?

The main symptoms are overwhelming tiredness and a lack of energy.
If the anaemia is severe, you might notice palpitations (when your heart skips a beat or two), breathlessness and dizziness, although these symptoms are fairly rare.
You should contact your midwife, obstetrician or GP if you have any of the symptoms of anaemia.

What are the treatments and remedies of Anaemia?

You can help yourself by increasing the amount of iron in your diet. Foods that are rich in iron include red meat (but avoid liver because this contains high levels of retinol, the animal form of vitamin A, and this can harm the baby); leafy greens, wholemeal breads, fortified cereals, leafy green veg and dried fruit.
Eating more iron-rich foods might not be enough on its own to bring your levels up sufficiently, though, and some expectant mums are prescribed iron tablets to take. An unfortunate side-effect of taking these tablets can be constipation, so if you're prescribed iron, try to step up the amount of fluids you drink, as well as exercising a bit more and eating more fibre. If you're given iron tablets, you'll have blood tests at intervals to check whether your iron levels are coming up adequately.

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

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Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit www.nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit http://www.hscni.net/