Haemoglobin is the blood pigment that transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues throughout the body.
Anaemia is a condition where the concentration of the haemoglobin in the blood is below normal. It is a common medical problem. In its milder form, many people go about their daily activities, unaware that there is anything amiss.
In pregnancy, anaemia is likely to be discovered. Many women are surprised and some a little irritated when they are told that they are anaemic. They don't take too kindly to the seemingly overbearing attitude of the midwife or doctor who stresses that they need their iron tablets and that they are going to continue needing these for the remainder of the pregnancy. Such reactions are understandable- and readily forgivable. These women are feeling well and are not keen on taking tablets for such a long period especially when pregnant.
The truth is, anaemia is a potentially serious condition, and mothers-to-be should be aware of this. Pregnancy puts an added demand on the woman's resources and, if these are already precarious, there is a potential for things to go seriously wrong.
Contrary to popular belief, iron deficiency is not the only cause of anaemia though it is, admittedly, the most common. Sometimes there is a combination of deficiencies where multiple supplements are required to correct the problem. This is usually associated with eating disorders.
Some people end up being anaemic, not because of a poor diet but because they suffer from diseases that make it difficult for iron to be absorbed from the stomach. Then there are those people who have an iron overload in their bodies but are still anaemic and chronically so. The prime examples are people with sickle cell disease or thalassaemia. All the various conditions associated with anaemia are discussed below.
Finally, many people are aware of the fact that folic acid is good for reducing the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, when taken at the right time. Not so many know that folic acid is a significant player in the prevention of anaemia. It is not a substitute for iron; rather, these two "elements" play distinct but complementary roles in a lot of physiological functions, including prevention of anaemia.