World Sickle Cell Day: Know how this disease affects women during pregnancy and childbirth

Sickle cell disease is a disease that affects haemoglobin levels. If a pregnant women has sickle cell disease, it can impact the pregnancy and childbirth.
sickle cell disease in pregnant women
How sickle cell disease affects pregnant women? Image courtesy: Adobe stock
Dr Pawan Kumar Singh Updated: 19 Jun 2023, 01:06 pm IST
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Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that affect the protein called haemoglobin that carries oxygen to different parts of the body. As per several medical authorities, it affects 20 million people across the globe. It makes vulnerable groups such as pregnant women prone to several complications. Pregnant women with sickle cell disease are at a higher risk of several complications.

Sickle cell disease poses distinctive challenges for pregnant women due to the abnormal shape of red blood cells and the increased risk of blood cell breakdown. These factors can lead to various complications, emphasising the need for proper care, medical support, and genetic counselling to ensure successful pregnancies and the delivery of healthy babies for women with sickle cell disease.

Let’s learn more about the negative impact of sickle cell disease on pregnancy and childbirth this World Sickle Cell Day.

How does sickle cell disease in pregnant women affect childbirth?

Pregnant women with sickle cell disease face a significant impact due to the elevated risk of hemolysis and vascular occlusion. Hemolysis, the breakdown of red blood cells, results in lower levels of haemoglobin, which is essential for carrying oxygen throughout the body. The irregular shape of the red blood cells obstructs the flow of blood through narrow vessels, causing pain, vascular crises, and potential lung problems. Additionally, there may be an enlargement of the spleen and a decrease in overall blood counts during a plastic crisis.

sickle cell disease in pregnant women
Sickle cell disease in pregnant women can impact childbirth negatively. Image courtesy

During pregnancy, the decrease in haemoglobin levels can negatively affect the growth and development of the fetus, potentially leading to intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). The abnormal shape of the red blood cells further intensifies the occurrence of vascular occlusion, which can worsen during pregnancy. It is crucial for pregnant women with sickle cell disease to pay extra attention to their diet and nutrition to maintain normal haemoglobin levels. Regular monitoring of haemoglobin levels, along with adequate hydration, fluid intake, and weight checks, is crucial to ensure proper fetal growth. Frequent visits to gynaecologists, obstetricians, and haematologists are necessary to effectively manage complications related to sickle cell disease throughout pregnancy.

Proper care and medical support is crucial for pregnant women with sickle cell disease

Despite the challenges, it is important to note that with proper care and medical support, pregnant women with sickle cell disease can still have successful pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. Regular follow-up with haematologists and obstetricians is crucial to promptly address any potential issues that may arise. These healthcare professionals possess specialized knowledge and can provide tailored guidance to meet the unique needs of pregnant women with sickle cell disease.

When a woman with sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease plans a pregnancy, it is vital for both her and her partner to consult with their haematologist and obstetrician beforehand. Additionally, the husband should undergo testing to determine if he carries the sickle cell trait. In cases where both partners have the sickle cell trait, pre-natal testing through chorionic villus sampling may be recommended. It is important for the couple to discuss the test results and the potential outcomes of the condition in detail. Genetic counselling plays a crucial role in helping couples understand the implications and make informed decisions to ensure a successful pregnancy and the birth of a healthy child.

sickle cell disease in pregnancy
Utmost care during pregnancy if you have sickle cell disease is important. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Takeaway

In conclusion, pregnancy with sickle cell disease presents unique challenges due to the increased risk of blood cell breakdown and the abnormal shape of red blood cells. However, through proper care, medical support, and genetic counselling, pregnant women with sickle cell disease can minimise risks and ensure the healthy development of their babies. Regular consultations with healthcare professionals specializing in sickle cell disease and obstetrics are essential for effective management throughout pregnancy. By proactively addressing these challenges, women with sickle cell disease can experience successful pregnancies and deliver healthy children.

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About the Author

Dr Pawan Kumar Singh is the Associated Director of Centre for Bone Marrow Transplant at BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi. ...Read More

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