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Will anemia go away when my baby is born?
That depends on the person. Each woman is different.
For many women, anemia goes away by the end of pregnancy. These women may have mild anemia and take iron supplements throughout pregnancy, helping iron levels return to normal by the time their baby arrives. For other women, it takes six months to rebuild iron stores after having anemia.
Check with your provider if you're unsure whether your anemia has resolved, or if you wonder whether you should still take iron supplements. If you do take them, iron supplements are considered safe to take when breastfeeding.
But be aware that breastfeeding women need only 9 milligrams (mg) of iron daily (compared with 27 mg during pregnancy).
What else might make me feel better?
Every new mom is exhausted, but tiredness is also a key symptom of anemia. Eating plenty of iron-rich foods and taking a supplement if necessary can boost your energy and lessen fatigue.
If you lose a lot of blood giving birth, then your hemoglobin level may be tested after you have your baby. If your iron level is extremely low and doesn't improve after taking iron supplements, your provider may refer you to a hematologist or another specialist for further evaluation. It's possible you may need an intravenous iron infusion.
If your anemia is very severe, your provider may also recommend a blood transfusion to raise your iron levels
Will anemia have any long-term effects on me?
There isn't much research showing any long-term effects of anemia on women. A few studies suggest an increased risk of developing postpartum depression (PPD) after having anemia during pregnancy. However, the link between the two conditions isn't clear.
And many women – including those without anemia – are diagnosed with PPD. In any case, watch out for the symptoms of PPD, which can include feeling weepy and anxious. You may also lose your appetite or have trouble sleeping.
If you recognize these symptoms in yourself and they don't go away after a week or two, don't suffer in silence. Talk to your provider about how you’re feeling so she can help you get the help and support you need.
Will anemia affect my baby in the long term?
Your baby is unlikely to be affected if your anemia is mild or you receive treatment for it. In the case of severe, untreated anemia, the truth is that experts aren't sure.
Some studies have suggested that severe anemia during pregnancy could affect a baby's physical and mental development. There is also a possible link between severe IDA in infants and children and behavioral problems. However, only a few small studies have been done on this topic, and more research is needed.
There are studies showing that when a woman has severe anemia in the first two trimesters of her pregnancy, there's an increased risk of her baby having a low birth weight or being born prematurely. And that can certainly impact a baby's long-term development.
What can I do to minimize the risk for future pregnancies?
Leaving a short gap between pregnancies puts you at greater risk for anemia. So if you're planning to have another baby, wait at least 18 months before conceiving again. In the meantime, get into the habit of incorporating more iron-rich foods into what you eat.
If you know you have iron-deficiency anemia before becoming pregnant, see your provider for a preconception checkup so she can manage your condition and treat you before you get pregnant. And if you develop anemia once you're pregnant, minimize the risks to you and your baby by taking iron supplements.
Visit the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's website for more information and to find an MFM specialist near you.