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Sickle Cell & Pregnant

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

Sickle cell is a blood disorder passed down from parent to child. People with sickle cell have abnormal hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the body).

Normal red blood cells are smooth and round in shape while that of a person with sickle cell forms a "C" shape and are stiff and sticky which tend to clump together and can’t move easily in the blood vessels causing pain and tissue damage.

How does sickle cell disease affect your pregnancy? Let’s dig into this...

How sickle cell affects your pregnancy depends on whether you have sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait. Women with sickle cell disease have no change in their disease during pregnancy while in some cases the disease may get worse. Events like the “sickle cell crisis” may still occur in pregnancy.

These events may be treated with medications that are safe to use during pregnancy. Women with sickle cell trait don’t have problems from the disorder but they are susceptible to urinary tract infections and anemia caused by not having enough iron in their blood. With sickle cell, the abnormal red blood cells may lower the amount of oxygen going to your developing baby and this slows down the baby’s growth.

How is sickle cell disease treated in pregnancy?

Early and regular prenatal care is important if you’re pregnant and have sickle cell disease, this enables your physician to keep a close watch on the disease and the health of your growing baby.

Some women may need blood transfusions to replace the sickle cells. This may be done several times during the pregnancy. During labor, your health care providers will administer intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration. You may also require extra oxygen through a mask during labor and the baby’s heart rate is also monitored. Most women with SCD can deliver vaginally except there are other complications.

Some of the complications of sickle cell in pregnancy include;

  • Infections include urinary tract infections, kidneys, and lungs

  • Gallbladder problems including gallstones

  • Miscarriage

  • Severe anemia

  • Poor fetal growth and preterm birth

  • Stillbirth

With all these said if you’re pregnant and have sickle cell disease or trait ensure you visit your physician regularly for checkups, have a low threshold when reporting concerns and complaints and seek out evidence-based advice to ensure you and your baby are healthy.

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