Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy

6 min read

Written by Pradeep


Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an extraordinary experience in the life of a woman. There are quite some challenges that an expecting mother has to conquer in the course of the pregnancy. Among them, some health issues are found to occur often, like issues with the hemoglobin level of the blood during pregnancy.

Based on a research it is found that 20% of the  pregnant women worldwide suffer from anaemia or low hemoglobin levels. Anaemia during pregnancy increases the chances of premature delivery and a low birth rate. So maintaining the right hemoglobin levels during gestation is very important. In this article we will understand what is hemoglobin, it’s importances during pregnancy and many more.

In This Article

What is Hemoglobin?

When we breathe in, hemoglobin, the (complex) protein seen in a red blood cell carries oxygen from the lungs) to the body’s tissues. Similarly, this protein carries carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs in the process of breathing out. The main component of RBC is iron molecule. Hence the name (heme = iron; globulin = name of the protein). These iron molecules help to carry the oxygen through the blood.

The level of hemoglobin is calculated in g/dl (gram per deciliter). The normal value of hemoglobin level in women ranges between 12 to 16 g/dl.

What is the Importance of Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy?

It is a usual practice to estimate the hemoglobin level as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed. This shows the significance of hemoglobin levels during gestation. The body of a pregnant woman requires more oxygen and the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is proportional to the circulating hemoglobin concentration.

Why Do Hemoglobin Levels Drop During Pregnancy?

Human hemoglobin

It is quite normal for hemoglobin levels to fall during pregnancy(11.5 TO 15 g/dl). This is because the blood volume increases by 50% in the course of pregnancy for providing essential nutrients for the developing baby. It starts to increase around the 8th week of pregnancy. The increase in blood plasma is higher, when compared to the increased RBC (red blood cells increase by 20%) volume. This naturally decreases the concentration of RBC in the blood, bringing down hemoglobin levels. The level of hemoglobin dropping to 10.5 g/dl is quite normal in the course of pregnancy.

What Are the Effects of Low Hemoglobin Level During Pregnancy?

Even though it is normal for the hemoglobin level falls to 10.5g/dl causing mild anemia in the course of pregnancy, when it goes below 10g/dl, it can cause several heath issues that affect the mother and child and the normal progression of the pregnancy. If an iron supplement is not taken properly as directed by the doctor, the low hemoglobin level can cause:

  • Feeling more and more tired
  • Dizziness
  • Pale lips and skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Shortness of breath at rest
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hands and feet feel cold

The symptoms get worse as the hemoglobin levels fall further. When the hemoglobin level falls below 6g/dl, the expecting mother will experience angina, a condition characterized by severe pain in the chest, which moves to the shoulders, arms, and neck, due to an insufficient blood supply to the heart.

[Read : Iron Deficiency Anemia During Pregnancy]

Am I At a Risk of Decreased Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy HB Test

Mild variation in hemoglobin levels is common during pregnancy. However, setting foot in pregnancy with a low hemoglobin level can cause some severe issues. Your hemoglobin levels will fall significantly from the very beginning of pregnancy if:

  1. You used to lose more blood during the menstruation, including the last one before getting pregnant.
  2. You adopted a diet with insufficient iron content for quite some period before becoming pregnant.
  3. If your body is not capable of absorbing iron properly.
  4. You donated blood more or less around the same time you got pregnant.
  5. You get pregnant within a short period after your last delivery.

How Can I Boost My Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy?

Taking an iron supplement is necessary to maintain the level of hemoglobin if your hemoglobin level is too low during pregnancy. Even so, it will soon go down to the previous level once you cease getting the iron supplement. If the difference is relatively small, a few changes to your daily menu will assist to boost the hemoglobin level.

Other than the increased blood volume, an inadequate intake of vitamin C, iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 is the most widely recognized explanation behind low hemoglobin levels. Each of this deficiency can be amended by adding certain food items to your daily menu.

List of Food That Boost the Level of Hemoglobin

Including some of the following food in your pregnancy diet will help to boost the level of hemoglobin:

  • Leafy vegetables (Palak leaves, fenugreek leaves, etc.), dry fruits (raisin, almonds, etc.), food grains (barley, millet, maize), sesame seeds, are good sources of iron.
  • Some kind of chemicals, minerals, and proteins (like calcium, gluten, caffeine) block the absorption of iron by the body, even if iron-rich food is included in the diet. If possible, limit or avoid consuming certain food that interferes with the assimilation of iron like Milk products (calcium rich), Coffee and tea (caffeine rich), Alcohol Parsley(oxalic acid), Pasta and wheat products (gluten).
  • Fruits like guava, kiwi, grapefruit, prunes, peaches, figs, apple, etc. are rich in iron.
  • Vitamin C deficiency can bring about the drop in hemoglobin level, as without sufficient vitamin C the body cannot absorb iron. Fruits like kiwi, orange, raspberries, lime are some excellent sources of vitamin C. Broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, dark leafy greens are vegetables that are rich in vitamin C.
  • The hemoglobin levels can fall when your body is not producing sufficient RBC. Here comes the significance of folic acid deficiency. This vitamin, which belongs to B complex vitamins, is involved in the production of RBC. Banana, corn, sprouts, turnips, lettuce, avocado, lady finger, seeds (sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.) should be a part of your regular diet.

When Do Hemoglobin Levels Become High During Gestation?

Hemoglobin test

Higher hemoglobin levels generally happen due to several underlying issues related to heart, lungs, and kidneys. Other than that, higher hemoglobin level(above the upper limits of normal level) in the blood can happen in the course of pregnancy when:

1. Dehydration

Decreased fluid intake can increase the hemoglobin level (falsely) during pregnancy.The level will fall to normal once the expecting mothers take enough fluids.

[Read : How To Handle Dehydration During Pregnancy?]

2. Erythrocytosis

Erythrocytosis is a condition in which the number of RBC is noticeably increased. During pregnancy, if the demands of the oxygen of various tissues are not met, the body tends to produce more RBC. It can prompt a few complexities since it can weaken the blood circulation, which can, in turn, trigger abnormal clotting.

3. An Overdose of Iron Supplements

The abnormally increased level of iron in the blood stream results in increased level of hemoglobin. Therefore, never take iron pills if not suggested by your doctor.

4. Contracted Plasma Volume

Poor plasma volume expansion can give an effect of increased red blood cells.

What Are the Affects of High Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy?

High hemoglobin level can be an indication of unfavorable pregnancy outcome. As:

  • High hemoglobin levels during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth.
  • The chances of LBW (low birth weight), pre term birth also increase if the mother has a higher level of hemoglobin.
  • High hemoglobin level during the first and the second trimester can result in fetal SGA (small for gestational age).
  • Hemoglobin level above 14g/dl during the second trimester can be an indication of preeclampsia.
  • Increased blood viscosity (thickness) limits the flow of blood, thereby adversely affect the health of both mother and child as only lesser blood will reach the placenta.

[Read : Slow Fetal Growth During Pregnancy]

How Can High Hemoglobin Levels Be Treated During Pregnancy?

As the higher level of hemoglobin can be an indication of various underlying issues, only an expert could find out an apt treatment, depending on the reason. The specialists will closely monitor the expecting mother and will decide the treatment pattern.

Always remember, the human body has amazing capabilities to adapt o various changes, especially when women are pregnant. Eating wisely during the gestation period can help the body cope with the changes that are happening, so a pregnant woman and people around her must pay special attention to her diet.

Read Also: Fetal Anemia During Pregnancy


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