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The most common cause of anaemia in pregnancy is iron deficiency. Some women may have other nutritional deficiencies e.g. vitamin B12 or folate.
Thalassaemia, a hereditary blood condition characterised by too little or no haemoglobin, can also cause anaemia.
Signs and symptoms of anaemia
Who are at higher risk of anaemia?
How will I be screened?
A blood test, full blood count (FBC) will be performed early in your pregnancy and repeated between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. If you are found to be anaemic, you should start taking iron tablets. A repeat blood test should be done four weeks after iron supplements to assess your response to the treatment. An iron infusion may be considered if haemoglobin levels remain low (less than 10) despite taking iron tablets.
Thalassaemia testing will be offered for some women, if indicated.
Labour and delivery
When you are in admitted to the hospital in labour, FBC will be performed. If you are found to be anaemic or have significant blood loss during delivery, a blood transfusion may be required.
What are the potential effects of anaemia in pregnancy?
Mothers may experience physical weakness and poor cognition, increased risk of infections, blood loss during delivery, preterm birth and postpartum depression.
Newborns may have low birth weight. Anaemia in newborn babies are also associated with developmental delay.
It is therefore important to screen and manage anaemia appropriately during pregnancy.
Treatment of anaemia
The treatment of anaemia may include increasing your dietary intake of iron, taking pregnancy vitamins, taking oral iron supplements, administering intravenous iron, and finally blood transfusion.
Dose of elemental iron required is 60 to 100mg daily. Your doctor may recommend that you take oral iron supplements on top of your pregnancy vitamins.
Iron supplements should be taken before food, on an empty stomach, for better absorption, except for Maltofer drops/tablets. They should be taken with or after food and can be mixed with other liquids like fruit juices or milk.
How should my diet be like?
Recommended servings of the following food groups in your daily diet:
The information above is also available for download in pdf format.