PARENTS

A: What Is Anaemia?

27/11/2013 12:44 | Updated 22 May 2015

Anaemia, or iron deficiency, is caused when the levels of iron in the blood become too low.

Because of the body's need for more iron during pregnancy, iron deficiency-anaemia is a common occurrence in pregnancy and one in five women will become anaemic during their pregnancy. Additionally, it is more likely to develop from week 20 onwards.

Symptoms of iron deficiency include breathlessness, exhaustion, fainting, palpitations and a pale complexion. Because these symptoms can so often be considered part of general pregnancy, a woman's blood will be regularly tested for anaemia to make sure the condition is detected.

Fortunately, anaemia can be treated very effectively. If the anaemia is mild, adding iron-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables; wholewheat bread; dried fruits such as apricots and prunes; and iron-fortified cereals can often restore a healthy balance.

Additionally, foods rich in vitamin C - such as oranges - can help the body to absorb the extra iron intake. However, despite its rich iron content, liver should be avoided during pregnancy.

If iron levels are very low, a doctor will prescribe iron tablets. While these are effective, they can have unpleasant side effects such as an upset stomach and constipation. If this happens, the doctor may lower the dose or prescribe a different brand.

However, there are iron-rich mineral waters available that can help restore iron balance. This natural remedy can be found in health food shops and some parenting stores. A sachet of iron-rich water combined with a glass of orange juice is acknowledged as being both safe and effective under advice from a midwife or doctor.

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