Sickle cell disease in pregnant women may increase the risk of stillbirth and high blood pressure. A study published in Blood uncovered that pregnant women with sickle cell disease are at a higher risk of stillbirths and hypertension, compared to healthy pregnant women.
The function of hemoglobin is to help carry oxygen around in the body. In sickle cell disease, the body produces abnormal hemoglobin. Red blood cells become rigid, stiff, and sickle-shaped, which blocks blood flow and oxygen flow, resulting in pain and other complications.
Senior study author Eugene Oteng-Ntim said, “While we know that women with sickle cell disease will have high-risk pregnancies, we have lacked the evidence that would allow us to confidently tell these patients how likely they are to experience one complication over another. This reality makes it difficult for us as care providers to properly counsel our sickle cell patients considering pregnancy.”
Researchers reviewed 21 study comparing pregnancy outcomes in normal women and those with sickle cell disease. Their analysis revealed that sickle cell disease women in low-income countries were at the highest risk for complications. Women with sickle cell disease in both high-income and low-income countries had a six time greater risk to die shortly after pregnancy. Additionally, sickle cell disease pregnant patients were also at higher risk for high blood pressure –preeclampsia, – stillbirth, delivering preterm and smaller than average babies.
Dr. Oteng-Ntim concluded, “Our report suggests that, even in developed countries with advanced care, there continues to be a much higher maternal mortality rate in women with sickle cell disease, compared to the general population, strongly suggesting that more work must be done to improve outcomes for these patients and their families. By improving care providers’ ability to more accurately predict adverse outcomes, this analysis is a first step toward improving universal care for all who suffer from this disease.”
Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder, which is passed down from parents, meaning if a woman has sickle cell gene, she can pass it on to her children. A woman with sickle cell disease can be tested prior to pregnancy to check if she will pass on the gene to her unborn child, and even during pregnancy the baby can be tested to check if they have inherited sickle cell disease.
Although complications may arise with a sickle cell disease pregnancy, having a normal pregnancy is still a possibility. It is important to note though that symptoms of sickle cell disease may worsen during pregnancy. The mother may experience higher levels of pain and should check in with her doctor regularly to ensure no complications are affecting the child.
If you have sickle cell disease, and are planning to become pregnant or are pregnant, speak with your doctor about any concerns or changes regarding your health. Your doctor should monitor you regularly to prevent any issues that may arise.