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Red blood cells deliver oxygen to tissues and organs in your body. Anemia means that you do not have enough of these cells.

Anemia has many causes, but iron deficiency is the most common. You can replace lost iron with vitamins or by modifying your diet.

When you are pregnant, your blood vessels retain more water. Your body makes more blood cells to compensate. While it is normal to have a lower-than-usual red blood cell count during pregnancy, anemia develops when the level is too low.

Other causes of anemia

  • Chronic illness
  • Destruction of blood cells
  • Blood loss
  • Abnormally formed blood cells, such as in sickle cell anemia
  • Abnormally low production of hemoglobin, which is more common in certain ethnic groups

Anemia's effect on pregnancy

  • If you have anemia, you may feel weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and headaches.
  • Nature has a way of protecting developing babies from the effects of anemia, so the mother must be severely anemic before problems develop.
  • If your anemia is caused by an inheritable condition, your baby may also have it.

Birth and beyond

  • Patients with severe anemia are more likely to deliver early and have small babies.
  • Blood loss occurs at every birth, so it is a good idea to take iron for several months after delivery to help your body replace lost blood cells.
  • If you breastfeed, you will lose iron through your breastmilk, so supplements are a good idea in this case as well.
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