Anemia During Pregnancy
(Low Red Blood Count in Pregnancy)

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The wonder and joy of pregnancy is matched by the body's ability to adapt to looking after the growing baby. In addition to the mother's physiologic needs, there is the additional need to provide the building blocks to optimally grow baby. All this construction requires energy and oxygen as the fuel that helps drive the engine.

Oxygen in the air that we breathe is delivered to the cells of the body by hemoglobin, a protein molecule found in red blood cells. The normal ranges for hemoglobin depend on the age and, beginning in adolescence, the gender of the person. For example, the normal ranges of hemoglobins for background comparison are:

  • Newborns: 17 to 22 gm/dl
  • Babies 1 week of age: 15 to 20 gm/dl
  • Babies 1 month of age: 11 to 15 gm/dl
  • Children: 11 to 13 gm/dl
  • Adult men: 14 to 18 gm/dl
  • Adult women: 12 to 16 gm/dl
  • Men after middle age: 12.4 to 14.9 gm/dl
  • Women after middle age: 11.7 to 13.8 gm/dl

Anemia is a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin and red blood cells. Anemia is a relatively normal finding in pregnancy. Plasma is the watery, noncellular component of blood. In pregnancy, there is an increase in plasma volume of the blood in order to help supply oxygen and nutrients to mother and baby. There can be a 20% increase in the total number of red blood cells but the amount of plasma increases even more causing dilution of those red cells in the body. A hemoglobin level of pregnancy can naturally lower to 10.5 gm/dL representing a normal anemia of pregnancy.