More than half the pregnant women in State are anaemic: survey

A 27-year-old woman in the 36th week of her pregnancy found she was unable to climb even a short flight of stairs. She also often felt breathless and drowsy. A doctor finally diagnosed her abysmally low haemoglobin (Hb) count of 4 grams per decilitre, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO), placed her in the critically anaemic category.

She was immediately advised to undergo blood transfusion as her condition was harmful to the health of the foetus.

An important time

According to the National Family Health Survey 3 data, which was compiled in 2005-06, 59.5 per cent of pregnant women in Karnataka suffer from anaemia. The survey adds that anaemia is a contributing factor for maternal morbidity and mortality.

Anu Sridhar, a gynaecologist at a private hospital in Bangalore, pointed out that most women enter pregnancy in an iron deficit state. “During pregnancy, there are lot of physiological changes that reduce the Hb count. Only a small section of pregnant women have good Hb count.”

Identify the type

WHO defines anaemia as “a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs, which vary by age, sex, altitude, smoking and pregnancy status.”

Doctors say that before beginning treatment, the cause of anaemia should be identified. Iron, folate and vitamin B12 deficiency are among those that lead to anaemia.

The most common is iron deficiency anaemia, which can be treated by consuming iron supplements. “Apart from that, eating food rich in iron, such as apples, dates, green, leafy vegetables and meat, will also help in increasing the Hb count,” says Dr. Sridhar.

Tackling anaemia

Surekha Patil, Deputy Director of Maternal Health, Department of Health and Family Welfare, says the department provides iron and folic acid tablets to pregnant women from the second trimester, under the National Rural Health Mission. “Those who are moderately anaemic are given double the dose, while those who are severely anaemic are given iron sucrose injection.”

According to her, pregnant women are advised to get their Hb count checked once a month. Anaemia among pregnant women could lead to various complications such as preterm labour, premature foetus and foetus with low birth weight, Dr. Patil warns.

She calls for a “serious approach” and strengthening of institutional setup to tackle this issue.

Start young

While most doctors emphasise the need to tackle anaemia during pregnancy, N. Sundari, obstetrician and gynaecologist in Bangalore, insists that the issue should be tackled from adolescence, so that complications at later stages can be avoided.