Anemia is a common concern for women of child bearing age. The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia found in the NHANES II was 5-10%, in the United States. That is equivalent to 1 in 5 women of childbearing age. It is estimated that nearly half of all pregnant women are at risk for developing iron-deficiency anemia. This can be attributed to the fact that pregnant women need twice as much iron as usual to increase the blood volume to the fetus to grow. Anemia is defined as a hemoglobin (hematocrit) concentration lower than the 2.5th percentile for healthy, well-nourished individuals of the same age, sex, and stage of pregnancy. Iron deficiency anemia is associated with laboratory evidence of iron depletion as a result of serum tests. The signs and symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia can vary in their severity from mild to severe.
Signs & Symptoms of Anemia
- Fatigue (tiredness) is the most common symptom, and occurs in all types of anemia. This occurs because the body does not have enough hemoglobin to carry oxygen all throughout the body.
- Shortness of breath
- Coldness in hands or feet
- Pale skin
Signs & Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
- Brittle nails
- Swelling or soreness of the tongue
- Cracks in the sides of the mouth
- Enlarged spleen
- Frequent infections
- May have unusual cravings for nonfood items (like ice, dirt, starch, or paint). This craving is called pica.
- Development of restless legs syndrome
Make an appointment with your health care provider if you notice negative changes in your health. Your provider will be able to diagnose you based off of your medical history, physical exam and various results on tests and procedures. Once the severity of your condition is known, a treatment plan will be created for you.
Eating more of the following foods is a great way to lower your risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.
- Include iron supplements into your diet, but be careful to follow your provider’s instructions for doses, large amounts of iron can be harmful.
- Eat more iron rich foods like red meat, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and shellfish. Iron-fortified breads and cereals.
- Peas; lentils; white, red and baked beans; soybeans; and chickpeas.
- Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables.
- Prune juice
- Dried fruits like prunes, raisins, and apricots.
- Vitamin C helps to absorb iron. Plan your meals rich in iron and vitamin C for optimal iron absorption.