Q: I'm worried about developing anemia during pregnancy. What can I do?
A: Iron-deficiency anemia is common during pregnancy: Your baby is using up a ton of iron these days, so if you don't get enough from your diet, you'll start depleting your iron stores, which can decrease your body's production of red blood cells. Mild cases of anemia usually go unnoticed, but if you have a more moderate to severe case, you'll experience symptoms like dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and a paler-than-usual complexion. The good news is that this type of anemia is easily treated with iron supplements. Doctors recommended that pregnant women get 30 milligrams of iron each day, but this is often hard to do from diet and prenatal vitamins alone. So your doctor may recommend popping an extra iron tablet starting in the second trimester. This also helps boost your red blood cell count in preparation for the inevitable blood loss that comes with giving birth.
Since anemia is so common -- it's estimated that 20 percent of pregnant women don't get enough iron -- doctors routinely screen for it between 24 and 26 weeks. If it turns out that you are anemic, don't worry. The condition usually doesn't affect the baby, and taking an iron supplement should solve the problem. The one downside to iron supplements is that they may make you nauseated or constipated. If this happens, try taking the pills at night, right after dinner.