White Blood Cells (WBC) Count in Pregnancy

White blood cells

Pregnancy brings a lot of changes to a woman’s body. Over the period of nine months, a woman goes through a lot of physical, mental, and emotional changes that can be quite traumatic if one is not aware of these changes. One such change that causes fear is the haematological change or the changes that occur in blood. These changes are related to platelets, haemoglobin, red blood cells, and white blood cells.

What are White Blood Cells?

The cells within the immune system are white blood cells. They shield the body against alien particles and kill any element that might cause harm to the body. Scientifically known as leukocytes, these cells are found throughout the body. Hence, these become an indicator of how physically fit, unfit, or sick one is.

What is the Role of White Blood Cells?

The white blood cells that are produced in the bone marrow have various functions. On a general note, the principal aim is to be the horsepower of the immune system, but in particular, different sets of white blood cells have different roles.

  1. Neutrophils: They are mostly populated by the cells and take the largest room. They fight infections of bacterial or fungal nature.
  2. Monocytes: These pull and suck in toxic waste and bacteria, eventually destroying them.
  3. Eosinophils: These are the soldiers who shield the body against parasites and allergic reactions.
  4. Basophils: They may be lesser than 1% of white blood cells, but they work hard at regularising blood flow and increasing cells for the immune system to stay strong through illness.
  5. Lymphocytes: They produce antibodies against foreign particles and destroy them.

Changes Which are Specific to the Types of WBC

The increase or decrease of these 5 types of white blood cells will lead to changes in the body. This is a key factor that causes imbalance due to haemolytic change during pregnancy.

  • The white blood cell count increases when the immune system is fighting an infection. The high population of these cells indicates a requirement for such support for the immune system. The causes could be trauma, pregnancy, allergic reactions, or autoimmune disorder. Some symptoms linked to increased white blood cells are fever, dizziness, frequent allergic reactions, and inflammation.
  • White blood cells decrease when an infection dominates the cells which makes the immune system weak and further weakens the body. The causes of it could be bone marrow malfunction, infections, and sepsis. Some symptoms linked to decreased white blood cells are lethargy, tiredness, and serious compilations of simple infections.

These changes are applicable to everyone. Pregnant women would see some similar changes and during most times; these changes are harmless:

1. Neutrophils

There is an increase in these cells during pregnancy, but it’s not dangerous to the body or the foetus. It only indicates the bone marrow’s response to the increased production of red blood cells.

2. Monocytes

During the onset of pregnancy, the mother’s immune system goes through alterations to avoid attacking the foetus. One of the alterations observed is the increase of monocytes. However, the side-effects of this are that it can lead to certain complications in pregnancy like preeclampsia. To remove these fears, the doctor may advise a test when the monocytes are observed to be too high.

3. Eosinophils

There is no change in the count of these cells. Any change will be an indication of a weak immune or the attack of an infection.

4. Basophils

There is no significant change in the number of Basophils.

5. Lymphocytes

It decreases in the first two trimesters and increases in the last trimester and postpartum. These changes are suppression of immunological activity during pregnancy.

What is the Normal White Blood Cell Count While Pregnant?

The total white blood cells in average non-pregnant women are between 4,500 – 11,000/ cu mm. During pregnancy, the minimum count to be maintained is 6000/ cu mm. In the third trimester, a range between 12000-18000 per microliter is considered as normal.

What Happens If You Have High WBC Count in Pregnancy?

As the immune system adjusts itself to your little one growing inside, you can expect the white blood cell count to increase at different intervals. This is nothing out of the ordinary and any thought of a grave medical emergency needs to be dismissed immediately.

However, if there are symptoms of worry such as fever, hypertension, acute stress or any other immunity-related problems do visit the doctor immediately.

Causes of High WBC Count During Pregnancy

The causes of increase or decrease in various types of white blood cells for a pregnant or non-pregnant woman are similar. An unknown extreme increase causes the pathological condition and it is best to avoid certain elements that would cause it to increase. The top four causes are explained here:

1. Stress

The stress during pregnancy is not just emotional but also physical. This increases white blood cells higher than the usual rate to shield the body from harm. Therefore, you should practise yoga and meditation to destress yourself.

A pregnant woman stressed

2. Infection

Any bacterial or fungal infection varying from the common cold to UTI increases the white blood cells. Take precautions to keep yourself safe and away from such infections. Your immune system is busy shielding you more than ever before, so take good care of yourself.

3. Inflammation

Inflammatory diseases and related allergic reactions would lead to an increase too. White blood cells rush to areas that need help and mature. Breathing techniques and avoiding allergic areas completely would help.

4. Leukaemia or Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Graves’ disease or leukaemia increases in non-functional white blood cells. Unlike in other cases, these cells do not do anything but just increases alarmingly large.

Innumerable changes occur during pregnancy and afterwards. Increase in white blood cells during pregnancy is not something to worry about, but any sign of immune weakness is a sign to visit the doctor. These usually change to strengthen a mother’s body and the womb. However, keep listening to your body. If you do feel uncomfortable always visit the doctor and always stay positive. A happy mother usually translates to a happy pregnancy.

Also Read: CBC Test during Pregnancy