Did you know that Anemia can hinder the overall development of a child?

By: - 21st March 2019

In new born children, the production of red cells does not begin until after a month. This can result in a mild anemic condition. This is called Physiologic or Normal Anemia. The condition gradually eases off once the red cell production eventually starts.

What is Anemia?

  • In newborn babies, when the venous hemoglobin level is less than 13g/dl.
  • In premature babies under 28 weeks, when the venous hemoglobin level is less than 12g/dl.

Causes of Anemia

  1. Blood loss
    • Hemorrhage developed by the mother before childbirth (Antepartum Hemorrhage - APH).
    • Umbilical Cord rupture.
    • Occult blood loss.
    • Eg:-
      • External bleeding.
      • Fetomaternal bleeding.
      • Twin to twin transfusion.

  2. Newborn infant Bleeding
    • Bleeding within the skull.
    • Bleeding from the belly button.
    • Pediatric gastrointestinal bleeding.
    • Liver, spleen rupture.

  3. When too much blood is taken for blood tests.

  4. Destruction of red blood cells (Hemolysis
  5. This occurs when there is an incompatibility between the blood types of the mother and the baby. This is called Rb/ABO incompatibility. This causes the child’s skin to turn yellow. (However, yellow skin can also be due to other reasons)

  6. Poor production of blood cells.
  7. Eg:
    • Infections, medication, leukemia

    Inability to produce enough red cells in the bone marrows of the fetus can cause severe Anemia. Apart from this, deficiency of certain nutrients Eg: Iron, Folic Acid, Vitamin E can cause poor production of red cells in the bone marrows.

What happens when you don’t treat Anemia?

The most common type of Anemia is Iron Deficiency Anemia. Usually, the oxygen transports inside our bodies combined with hemoglobin as oxyhemoglobin. When Anemic, the hemoglobin level goes down and similarly the oxygen transport too is reduced. Oxygen is essential for all organs in our bodies and their functionability depends on the amount of oxygen received. A low supply of oxygen to the major organs in the body such as brain, liver, and kidney can result in poor performance. If the oxygen supply is weakened during the first 2 to 3 minutes after birth, baby’s brain cells become inactive resulting in no functionality at all except for the heart and the lungs. The low oxygen supply means that the heart has to work beyond its capacity. This can cause the heart to swell and function poorly. The reason is because the heart attempts to correct the shortage of red cells and hemoglobin.

Also, during pregnancy, if the mother becomes anemic and does not get treatments, there is a risk of premature and low weight births. It is difficult to sustain life in some children born in this manner and some could face health complications that will remain during their entire lives.

Symptoms of Anemia
  1. Paleness.
  2. Fatigue.
  3. Slow growth and development.
  4. Loss of appetite.
  5. Abnormal rapid respiration.
  6. Behavioral Changes.
  7. Frequent infection.
  8. A tendency to eat unhealthy and unnecessary food (Pica).
  9. Shallow and fast pulse.
Food to eat when anemic.
  • Dark green vegetables.
  • Fresh fruits (rich in Vitamin C).
  • Meat, liver.
  • Seafood.
  • Beans, grains, cashews.
  • Since iron absorption requires an acidic medium, eating foods that contain vitamin C or foods that are sour (Eg: lime) is appropriate and needed.
Foods that should be avoided

Although milk is rich in protein and calcium, when anemic (iron-deficient) it is not good to consume milk or milk products. The calcium in them will suppress the iron absorption. Because of this reason, pregnant mothers are advised not to take the iron pill and the calcium pill at the same time.


A heavy blood loss can result in your child developing Anemia that can cause hypovolemic shock and also low blood pressure. Due to the extremely fast destruction of red cells, bilirubin production increases. The skin turns yellow. If the condition becomes critical, the bilirubin can enter the brain and impair all functions.

An article by Chrishanthi Ganga Kumarihamy, a Grade 1 nurse from the Premature Infant Care Unit of the Provincial Hospital, Kurunegala.

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