Depending on your medical provider for obstetrical care, you may have your finger stuck at every office visit. Or you may have initial bloodwork done at about ten weeks and then have another blood draw at twenty-eight weeks while having your blood sugar tested, for an H&H or hematocrit and hemonglobin. This H&H tests you for anemia.
Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all the cells of the body via the circulatory system. It also is responsible for carrying oxygen to the fetus by way of the placenta. Iron is used to produce this very important protein.
Women, in general, are more prone to anemia because they menstruate and in so doing, they lose iron which is in the bloodstream. So, women may start a pregnancy anemic or they may develop anemia in pregnancy because of the extra requirements placed on the circulatory system carrying that iron in the red blood cells. Not having enough iron in the red blood cells is called anemia. And anemia is tested with a finger prick or a blood draw to determine if the hematocrit and hemoglobin levels fall with normal limits.
Women need extra iron during pregnancy to produce extra blood and to nourish the fetus to support optimal growth. If they can't get the extra iron necessary through their diets, then a supplement may be needed. In any case, women must be tested periodically, during routine office visits for adequate amounts of hemoglobin and red blood cells, so appropriate measures may be taken for the best otcome for the pregnancy.
Symptoms of anemia may include headaches and dizzyness and excessive fatigue. Even shortness of breathe might signal anemia. So if you have symptoms and it's not routine to have your H&H checked at every office visit, be proactive and ask for a red blood count.
Eating foods high in iron is a must. Dried fruits and beans, dark leafy greens, whole grains, egg yolks and red meats and organ meats, like liver. If you must supplement with an iron preparation don't take it with milk products or Calcium. This blocks iron absorption. It is best to take iron tablets, first thing in the morning with some orange juice, because vitamin C enhances the uptake of the iron. Then wait a little while ( maybe one half hour ) before taking other medicines and food. That way you will know for sure that you are gaining maximum benefits from the supplement which may be purchased over the counter or ordered via a presription from your provider.
A word to the wise: iron supplents may cause black stools and bloating and constipation. Add a lot of fiber to your diet and you may need a fiber booster in the form of any of a myriad of over the counter fiber preparations that come in pill, powder and even cookie form. Stool softeners are also readily available. Don't wait until it is a problem. You can't OD on fiber. Always remember to drink plenty of liquids to combat constipation too.
So don't bemoan those pricks and sticks. They are checking for vital and essential iron so you are feeling your best and producing the best too!!