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Iron Deficiency Anemia During Pregnancy: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Iron deficiency anemia means that you don't have enough iron in your blood. You need even more iron when you are pregnant.

Without enough iron, you may feel weak and sick. Your skin may look pale. Low iron can cause problems when you give birth. And your risk for problems after you have the baby may rise. Severe anemia is rare. But if you get it, you may be more likely to have your baby early (preterm birth). Or your baby may have a low birth weight.

The food you eat may not give you as much iron as you need. Iron pills can help. Your doctor or midwife may advise you to take them.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor or midwife recommends a multivitamin or iron supplement, take them as directed. Call your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your supplements.
  • If your doctor or midwife tells you to take iron pills:
    • Try to take the pills on an empty stomach about 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals. But you may need to take iron with food to avoid an upset stomach.
    • Do not take antacids or drink milk or caffeine drinks (such as coffee, tea, or cola) at the same time or within 2 hours of the time that you take your iron. They can keep your body from absorbing the iron well.
    • Vitamin C (from food or supplements) helps your body absorb iron. Try taking iron pills with a glass of orange juice or some other food high in vitamin C.
    • Iron pills may cause stomach problems, such as heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and cramps. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. And include fruits, vegetables, and fibre in your diet each day.
    • Do not stop taking iron pills without talking to your doctor or midwife first. Even after you start to feel better, it will take several months for your body to build up a store of iron. Call your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your iron pills.
    • If you miss a pill, do not take a double dose of iron.
    • Keep iron pills out of the reach of small children. An overdose of iron can be very dangerous.
  • Eat foods rich in iron. These include red meat, shellfish, poultry, eggs, beans, raisins, whole-grain bread, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Talk to your doctor or midwife about any cravings for non-food items such as dirt, ashes, clay, or chalk. These cravings can be a sign of iron deficiency anemia.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line if:

  • You have new fatigue, or your fatigue is worse.
  • You have problems with your medicine, such as nausea and constipation.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.