Anaemia in Pregnancy

Around 1-in-4 pregnant women in Australia will develop anaemia in pregnancy. This makes it one of the most frequent problems we see in pregnancy.

It’s a common misconception that anaemia is always due to iron deficiency. There are actually quite a few other potential causes that might need to be ruled out. It’s important to understand this, so you know why your doctor is ordering certain tests!

What is anaemia?

Anaemia means you have too few red blood cells, or the amount of haemoglobin inside the red cells is low.

Haemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen all around your body. So it’s pretty essential!

What causes it?

  • Common causes:
    • Iron deficiency (about 50% of cases)
    • Vitamin B12 & folate deficiencies
    • Blood loss (this is quite common after giving birth)
    • Thalassemia and other inherited anaemias
  • Rare causes:
    • Infectious diseases e.g. malaria, parasites
    • Chronic diseases e.g. kidney problems, Inflammatory Bowel Disease
    • Cancer

What symptoms does anaemia cause?

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

How do we diagnose it?

The first step is a full blood count (FBC) to check your haemoglobin level.

If the FBC shows anaemia, your doctor will do more specific tests to work out the underlying cause.

Inherited anaemias can be passed on to your baby. If you have a family history of anaemia, let your doctor know because you might need specialist advice about further testing.

How do we treat it?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. For example, iron deficiency is treated with iron tablets or occasionally an iron infusion.