TC46 consulted Minal Shah, Senior Nutritionist at Fortis Hospital in Mumbai, to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about anaemia, its correlation with pregnancy, and how to prevent it naturally.
Anaemia is a condition in which the number of Red Blood Cells (RBC) or the Haemoglobin concentration within them is lower than normal. Haemoglobin is made of four subunits and can bind up to four oxygen molecules. The oxygen-carrying capacity of Haemoglobin determines how much oxygen is carried in the blood. Low Haemoglobin decreases the capacity of blood to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. This results in symptoms like: – Fatigue – Weakness – Dizziness – Shortness of breath – Headache
Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA) as the name implies is due to insufficient iron. Without sufficient iron, our body cannot produce enough of Red Blood Cells (RBC) that carry oxygen. Iron deficiency develops in stages. Modest losses, when the Iron requirement exceeds Iron intake or decreased caloric intake causes progressive depletion of bone marrow iron stores. During the later stages, the deficiency impairs RBC synthesis causing Anaemia. Yes, one can be iron deficient but not anaemic.
The causes of Anaemia are multiple and complex, but iron deficiency is considered to be a major cause of Anaemia, especially in women during reproductive age due to limited intake of iron-rich food along with poor bioavailability, and increased requirement associated with menstruation. Also, during pregnancy, there is an increase in iron requirements to serve for their increased blood volume, as well as for the growing fetus. Those with planned pregnancy or at the start of pregnancy should get their blood test done to check for Haemoglobin levels. Oral contraceptives may also be a contributing factor for IDA.
Anaemia during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, low birth weight baby and Postpartum Depression. It increases the perinatal risk for mothers and neonates and increases overall infant mortality risk. Even a moderate haemorrhage in an anaemic pregnant woman can be fatal. Anaemia adversely affects cognitive performance, behaviour, physical growth of infants, pre-school and school-aged children. Anaemia depresses the immune status and increases morbidity from infection in all age groups.
People with IDA also experience symptoms like: – Hunger for strange substances like paper, ice or dirt (pica) – An upward curve of the nails (Koilonychias) – Soreness of mouth with cracks at the corners