The percentage of anemic pregnant women has increased from 49.7 percent in 1998-99 to 58.7 percent in 2005-06.
Globally, as per WHO report on prevalence of anemia worldwide, 2005, 41.8 percent of pregnant women are anemic. The African region with 57.1 percent has maximum percentage of anemic pregnant women followed by Southeast Asia at 48.2 percent.
As regards anemia in all married women, the trend is no better. In urban and rural areas, anemia prevalence in women (age 15-49 years) was 50.9 percent and 57.4 percent respectively.
Highlighting the causes of anemia, Dr Ranjana Sharma, senior consultant, department of obstetrics and gynecology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi said, “We live in a society which is patriarchal. If the amount of food available is less, it would first be made available to the bread earner of the family and the children, the women of the family are the last one to get the food.”
Expressing deep concern over the issue, Dr Sunil Mehra, executive director at Mamta, a maternal health focus NGO said, “The rise in anemia is an overall reflection of the nutritional status of India. It should not be seen in isolation.”
Commenting on the urban and rural scenario, Dr Madhu Goel, senior consultant at Rockland Hospital, Delhi said, “The prevalence of anemia can now be seen both in urban as well as in rural areas. In urban areas, it is because of bad eating habits and in rural areas, it is mainly because of poverty.”
“Anemia is prevalent in those parts of our society where women are the last one to read, write and eat. The quality and the quantity of the food taken by women is also of worst quality,“ lamented Mehra at Mamta.
Explaining the scenario of anemia among children, Mehra said, “Iron stores in the child (in the womb) get depleted if the mother is anemic, and as the child enters adolescence age, the child too turns anemic. The situation is somewhat comparable to the fact that small mothers make small baby.”
On preventive measures, Dr Goel at Rockland Hospital advised, “Dietary advice given to women has to be given at each visit. Hemoglobin level should be checked. Proper antenatal check-up is required. In married women, pre-pregnancy check up is required.”