Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy: Prevention tips

Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy can make you feel weak and tired. Know the risk factors, symptoms and what you can do to avoid it.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're pregnant, you're at an increased risk of iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which you don't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body's tissues. Find out why anemia during pregnancy occurs and what you can do about it.

What causes iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy?

Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. During pregnancy, you need double the amount of iron that nonpregnant women need. Your body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. If you don't have enough iron stores or get enough iron during pregnancy, you could develop iron deficiency anemia.

How does iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy affect the baby?

Severe anemia during pregnancy increases your risk of premature birth, having a low birth weight baby and postpartum depression. Some studies also show an increased risk of infant death immediately before or after birth.

What are the risk factors for iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy?

You are at increased risk of developing anemia during pregnancy if you:

  • Have two closely spaced pregnancies
  • Are pregnant with more than one baby
  • Are vomiting frequently due to morning sickness
  • Don't consume enough iron
  • Have a heavy pre-pregnancy menstrual flow
  • Have a history of anemia before your pregnancy
Feb. 15, 2017 See more In-depth