Determine whether you have an indication of anemia.
Know YOUR Number (hemoglobin) (Be a 12!)
For females, a blood hemoglobin value less than 12 g/dL is considered anemia. A test for hemoglobin is simple and inexpensive and until recently was a routine part of a physical examination or a woman’s “yearly exam” with her gynecologist. Unfortunately, this test is often now performed only after symptoms are identified. In this situation the anemia may be severe. Because anemia screening has become less common, mild and more readily treatable anemia can be missed. Be proactive: ask your care provider to check your hemoglobin once a year if you have heavy menses.
Anemia before or during pregnancy
Make sure you are not anemic before you become pregnant (know your hemoglobin number). Starting your pregnancy with anemia or iron deficiency nearly assures anemia throughout the pregnancy. Anemia and iron deficiency are not good for you and are especially not good for your baby. Iron is important in all organ systems, including those developing in your baby. Among other problems, anemia during pregnancy is associated with pre-term delivery which can be dangerous for both you and your child. If you are considering getting pregnant, know your hemoglobin number and do what is needed to start your pregnancy as close to 12 as possible. Eating a well-balanced diet including red meat (most readily absorbed source of iron) and at least 3 servings of green vegetables a day helps. Oral iron supplements may also be considered. Getting enough folic acid (from your diet and/or as a supplement) is important. A first obstetrics visit includes hemoglobin testing.
Anemia in women’s health is treatable when managed with diet, medications and, especially, ongoing follow up. Anemia should never be tolerated as a new “normal”. Managing anemia requires understanding the cause and treating it AND the anemia. Too often the cause is treated, with medications and surgery, and the anemia is left to correct on its own, which may or may not happen-quickly or completely.
Lab testing outside of a physician’s office
If you don’t have a doctor you can order a test for anemia on yourself. You generally cannot order hemoglobin as a single test but you can order a CBC (complete blood count) which includes measurement of your basic blood cells and cell counts. This test battery includes the number of red cells you have in one milliliter of your blood, the size of your red cells (mean red cell volume or MCV) and the average hemoglobin content of your red cells (Hgb). It also includes the number of white cells you have (these fight infection) the kinds of white cells (neutrophils, lymphocytes and monocytes) and your platelet count (important in blood clotting). You do not need any test other than a hemoglobin or CBC to check for anemia. If you have anemia your care provider will order additional tests if needed.
We do not have a relationship with any company or reference laboratory that does testing by patient request. An internet search to see what is available in your area could be your first action. When we did this we identified “Walk In Lab”, partnered with LabCorp (national laboratory service) and using their lab centers (1500 nationwide), as one such service. A complete blood count (CBC) using that service costs $24. Again, a CBC is sufficient for anemia identification. Again, we are using the service noted above as an example and are not giving an endorsement of its service or quality or suggestion that this is the lab you choose. If you have a healthcare provider, their lab is your best option.
If you have anemia, then what?
The presence of anemia requires an evaluation by a medical professional to identify the cause and determine the best treatment that works for you. Your role is in complying with treatment and having follow-up lab tests to learn your new number (Hgb).
The Patient Readiness Institute(PRI) and our MyBloodHealth® Program
Blood and anemia care is all we do. We would be delighted to navigate your anemia journey to a normal hemoglobin and iron content with you. Your health care clinic and provider may already be using our services and care team for patient evaluation, treatment and monitoring. We accept patients by referral from their health care provider because it is essential for your best health that your primary health care record and care giver have all information about your blood health, including lab test results, treatment plans and records of treatment outcome and follow-up care. If your care provider is not familiar with us, please print our Referral to the Patient Readiness Institute form for your care provider to review, sign and return to us. Please note, this service is currently only available in Minnesota.