Sickle Cell Awareness for Expecting Mothers

 September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Sickle cell disease (also called SCD) is a condition in which the red blood cells in your body are shaped like a sickle (like the letter C). This can result in interruption of blood flow, and prevent oxygen from reaching tissue and organs. When this occurs, painful events can occur with an associated risk of muscle, bone and organ damage.

A careful history should be taken from all pregnant women seeking to identify risk factors for genetic disorders. A simple blood test either before conception or during pregnancy can determine whether either parent carries a sickle cell trait. During pregnancy, SCD poses problems to both mother and fetus.

With regular prenatal care, most women with SCD can have a healthy pregnancy. However, if you have SCD, you’re more likely than other women to have health complications that can affect your pregnancy. These complications include pain episodes, infection and vision problems. During pregnancy, SCD may become more severe, and pain episodes may happen more often. Pain episodes usually happen in the organs and joints. They can last a few hours to a few days, but some last for weeks.

As a pregnant woman with sickle cell disease certain risk factors may increase:

  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Having a baby with low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces)

If you have SCD and you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk to your health care provider about the medicines you are taking. Your provider may change your medicine to one that is safe for your baby during pregnancy.

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All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.