Getting enough iron in your diet while pregnant may help your baby breathe easier after birth. That was the conclusion of a new study published recently in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology which is the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
Elizabeth Triche, PhD was the lead author of the study. She said, “We found there is a link between anemic pregnant women and their children’s wheezing and asthma.”
Asthma is a condition that makes breathing difficult. During an asthma attack, muscles around the airways constrict which makes breathing passages smaller and allows less air to enter the lungs. At the same time, the lining of the airways can swell and produce excess mucus which further limits the flow of air.
Asthma is a growing concern for young children. In 2007, over 5.5 million school-aged children were reported to have asthma. On average, 3 children in a classroom of 30 are likely to have asthma.
The ACAAI study followed 597 families who had participated in a previous Asthma in Pregnancy (AIP) Study. It found that 12 percent of mothers in the study group had anemia while they were pregnant. Twenty-two percent of their children had repeated bouts of wheezing as infants and 17 percent had active asthma at age six. For women who have asthma themselves, the effects of anemia during pregnancy can have an even stronger and longer-lasting impact on the respiratory health of their children.
Anemia is the condition that results when a person does not have enough healthy red blood cells. These are the cells that carry oxygen to all the tissues in the body. The most common type of anemia is iron deficiency anemia. This means the person does not have enough iron in her blood. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin which is the part of the blood that carries oxygen. Without enough iron, the blood cannot carry oxygen effectively.
About 20 percent of all women and up to half of all pregnant women have anemia caused by low iron. Symptoms of anemia may include headaches, irritability, pale coloration, weakness, and fatigue.