Is High White Blood Cells (WBC) Count in Pregnancy Normal?

Is High White Blood Cells (WBC) Count in Pregnancy Normal?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sanjana Sainani (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Pregnancy brings many changes to a woman’s body. Over a 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 changes in the blood. These changes relate to platelets, haemoglobin, red blood cells, and white blood cells. Sometimes there is a chance of high white blood cell count during pregnancy. Let’s read more about it.

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 indicate 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, their 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 That Are Specific to the Types of WBC

The increase or decrease of these five 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 support of 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 immunity or the attack of an infection.

4. Basophils

There is no significant change in the number of Basophils.

5. Lymphocytes

WBC count in pregnancy first trimester decreases and increases in the last trimester and postpartum. These changes are due to the suppression of immunological activity during pregnancy.

What is the Normal White Blood Cell Count During Pregnancy?

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.

Is High WBC Count Dangerous for Pregnant Women?

Yes, pregnant women’s white blood cell count high can be dangerous. While a moderate increase in WBC count during pregnancy is normal, an excessively high count can indicate an infection or any other underlying medical condition that requires prompt medical attention.

A high WBC count can lead to serious complications for the mother and the developing fetus if left untreated. For example, it can increase the risk of premature delivery, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), and other pregnancy-related complications.

Therefore, if you are pregnant and have concerns about your WBC count, it is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. They can perform additional tests to determine the cause of the high count and recommend appropriate treatment options to retain a normal WBC count during pregnancy.

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; any thought of a grave medical emergency must be dismissed immediately.

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

Causes of High WBC Count During Pregnancy

The causes of an increase or decrease in various types of white blood cells for a pregnant or non-pregnant woman are similar. An unknown extreme increase causes a 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

Stress during pregnancy is not just emotional but also physical. This causes the white blood cell count to be higher than the usual rate to shield the body from harm. Therefore, you should practise yoga and meditation to de-stress.

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 from such infections. Your immune system is busy shielding you, now more than ever, 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 diseases, Graves’ disease, or Leukaemia increase non-functional white blood cells. Unlike other cases, these cells do nothing but increase to alarming quantities.

Diagnosis of High White Blood Cell Count During Pregnancy

The diagnosis of high white blood cell (WBC) count during pregnancy usually involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.

Medical history: The healthcare provider will ask about any symptoms the pregnant woman may be experiencing, such as fever, chills, fatigue, and pain. They will also ask about any medical conditions, medications, or surgeries the woman has had.

Physical examination: The healthcare provider will perform a physical examination to check for signs of infection or other medical conditions that may be causing the high WBC count. This may include examining the abdomen, checking vital signs, and looking for any visible signs of infection, such as redness or swelling.

Laboratory tests: The healthcare provider may order a series of laboratory tests to determine the cause of the high WBC count. These may include a complete blood count (CBC) to measure the number and types of blood cells, blood culture to identify bacterial infections, and other tests to check for underlying medical conditions, such as thyroid disease or autoimmune disorders.

If the high WBC count is determined to be caused by an infection, the healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat the infection. In some cases, further testing or referrals to specialists may be necessary to identify and address the underlying cause of the high WBC count when 28 weeks pregnant.

When to Consult a Doctor

Though the white blood cell count is much higher in pregnant women, there are certain symptoms to look out for, which may be a cause for concern. Consult your doctor, immediately, if you notice:

1. Fever and Pain

Fever and pain are signs that your body is fighting an infection. It is necessary for the doctor to diagnose the cause and treat you appropriately before it causes harm to you or the foetus.

2. Breathing Issues

If you experience issues with breathing, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, etc., make sure to consult a doctor immediately. It could be a sign of an allergic reaction in the lungs, which must be treated as soon as possible.

3. Rashes, Itchiness or Hives

Allergy to the skin, causing rashes, itchiness, hives, or redness could potentially be dangerous and indicative of an infection, so make sure to consult your doctor for the appropriate treatment.

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, visit the doctor and always stay positive. A happy mother usually translates to a happy pregnancy.


1. What level of WBC Count Indicates Leukemia In Pregnancy?

The normal range for WBC count during pregnancy is between 5,000 and 15,000 cells/mcL (microliter) of blood. However, the exact threshold for determining whether a high WBC count indicates leukaemia during pregnancy can vary depending on the individual case and the specific type of leukaemia.

Generally, a WBC count of more than 25,000 to 30,000 cells/mcL is considered to be significantly elevated and may be a cause for concern. However, it is important to note that a high WBC count can also be caused by other factors, such as infections or inflammation, so further diagnostic testing is typically necessary to confirm a diagnosis of leukaemia.

2. Will White Blood Cell Count Remain High After Pregnancy?

It is normal for a woman’s white blood cell (WBC) count to increase during pregnancy as her body prepares to defend against infections. However, the WBC count should return to normal levels after delivery.

In some cases, a high WBC count may persist after pregnancy, indicating an underlying medical condition. For example, autoimmune disorders, infections, and certain types of cancer can cause a persistent high WBC count. In such cases, further diagnostic testing is usually necessary to determine the underlying cause

3. Does a High White Blood Cell Count Causes Miscarriage?

A high white blood cell (WBC) count alone is not known to cause miscarriage directly. However, a high count when 28 weeks pregnant can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or infection that can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy, which may lead to a miscarriage.

For example, certain infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can cause an increase in WBC count and have been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. Additionally, underlying medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders or blood disorders that cause high WBC counts can also increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.

Also Read: CBC Test during Pregnancy

Previous article «
Next article »