Hemoglobin in Pregnancy: What Is Normal?

Estimating hemoglobin levels is a common practice after you get pregnant. During gestation, the body needs more oxygen, while hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen and the concentration of it affects the oxygen-carrying capacity. Therefore, the measurement of this protein while expecting is of high importance.

Normal Hemoglobin Levels in Pregnancy

Hemoglobin levels normally fall during pregnancy. This is because the volume of blood has to increase up to 50% in order for a body to provide the baby with all necessary nutrients. This leads to the decrease of RBC concentration in blood, causing hemoglobin levels to drop. Here is a chart telling you normal hemoglobin levels:

Low Hemoglobin Level During Pregnancy

Causes of Low Hemoglobin Level During Pregnancy

While the mild drop of hemoglobin during gestation is entirely normal, extremely low levels of it can be alarming. If your hemoglobin levels have fallen drastically, it could be due to:

  • Heavy menstrual flows that you've been experiencing before becoming pregnant
  • Eating a diet low in iron for some time before getting pregnant
  • Donating blood
  • Your body being incapable of absorbing iron normally and thus causing your hemoglobin in pregnancy to be extremely low
  • Getting pregnant soon after delivery

Effects of Low Hemoglobin Level During Pregnancy

While it is normal for hemoglobin to fall to 9.5 g/dL and cause a mild form of anemia, dropping below 9 g/dL can lead to some serious problems in both mother and baby. The problem can be so severe that it can even interrupt the regular progression of the gestation, causing side effects such as:

  • Fatigue that progresses over time
  • Vertigo
  • Coldness of the peripheral parts of the body, such as feet and hands
  • Paleness of the lips and skin in general
  • Increased pulse
  • Fragile fingernails
  • Respiratory difficulties, such as shortness of breath, that occur even while resting

As your hemoglobin levels keep falling, the symptoms will get worse and worse. When its levels finally fall to 6 g/dL and below, angina will develop in a mother as a result of her heart not getting enough of blood. This condition is easily recognized by the severe chest pain that tends to move to the neck, shoulders, and arms.

How to Boost Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy

You should be able to increase hemoglobin in pregnancy by taking iron supplements. Remember to take them regularly as levels can go back down once you stop taking them. If the drop is not so apparent, you can slightly change your diet to meet the iron needs.

In addition to the increase of blood volume being the reason behind low hemoglobin, deficiency of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin C and folic acid could also be responsible for it. These deficiencies can be fixed by including the following items in your diet:

  • Foods rich in iron such as leafy vegetables, dry fruits such as almonds and raisin, sesame seeds, fruits like kiwi, peaches apples, guava, and grapefruit
  • Foods rich in vitamin C such as kiwi, lime, raspberries, and oranges, as well as green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, broccoli, and peppers
  • The good sources of folic acid are foods like banana, avocado, corn, lettuce, and sprouts. Various seeds such as flax seeds and sunflower seeds should also be a part of your diet as they are rich in folate too.

Hemoglobin in pregnancy can only stay at the desired level if you avoid or stop consuming items rich in caffeine, calcium, and gluten that prohibit the proper absorption of iron.

High Hemoglobin Level During Pregnancy

Causes of High Hemoglobin Level During Pregnancy

High hemoglobin usually occurs when there is an underlying issue present. Usually, this issue is related to either lungs, kidneys or the heart. Higher levels of this protein can occur during gestation as well, especially as a result of:

  • Dehydration: It only temporarily increases the level of hemoglobin which comes back to normal as soon as the mother-to-be drinks some fluids.
  • Erythrocytosis: The condition is easily recognized by an abnormal increase of erythrocytes. It occurs when the gestational need for the oxygen isn't met.
  • Iron overdose: Naturally, the higher the level of iron, the higher the level of hemoglobin.
  • Poor expansion of plasma volume: This sometimes gives the illusion that there is an increase of red blood cells.

Effects of High Hemoglobin in Pregnancy

High levels of hemoglobin can cause:

  • Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight (LBW): The risk is dramatically higher in mothers who struggle with increased hemoglobin.
  • Baby being small for gestational age (SAG): If a mother happens to have higher hemoglobin levels in the first and second trimesters, her fetus could end up being small for gestational age (SGA).
  • Preeclampsia: This conditiom usually occurs when a woman's hemoglobin is above 14 g/dL in her second trimester.
  • Increased thickness of blood vessels: It will restricts the blood flow and thus limits the amount of blood that gets to the placenta.

How Can High Hemoglobin Levels Be Treated During Pregnancy?

Based on the fact that high levels of hemoglobin can be indicators of many underlying health problems, only a professional can determine the cause and recommend the proper treatment.

Keep in mind that a human body is able to adapt to changes, such as being pregnant, but it still needs a bit of aid. Paying special attention to your diet during gestation can help the body adapt to pregnancy more smoothly. 

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