What Happens if WBC Count is High in Pregnancy?
The white blood cell (WBC) count in a blood test indicates the status of our immune system. An increased level of white blood cell count (leukocytosis) often indicates that there is a bacterial or viral infection in our body. High white blood cell count can also be the result of disorders of the immune system, blood and autoimmune system. Symptoms which a person can experience with a high WBC count include headache, dizziness and localized inflammation. Sometimes, women can have high white blood cell count in pregnancy. The question is, is it a cause for worry?
Having a high white blood cell count in pregnancy is quite common. This is because the immune system of the body has to adjust itself to support the mother and her unborn baby. The production of white blood cells further increases when the mother nears her time for birth due to increased physiologic stress. However, there are also certain conditions which can lead to an increase in the white blood cells and patient or a pregnant mother should consult her obstetrician if she is experiencing symptoms, such as pain, fever, weight loss, fainting and bleeding.
What Can Cause High WBC Count in Pregnancy?
Some of the following conditions can lead to a High WBC count in pregnancy:
Stress: During pregnancy, the mother’s body gets exposed to physical stress as well as emotional stress and this leads to increased production of white blood cells as a method to protect itself. So, a pregnant woman should try and avoid stress as much as possible through meditation and breathing exercises.
Inflammation: Inflammatory diseases and allergies, such as asthma, arthritis and dermatitis lead to inflammation, which results in an increased white blood cell count. The leukocytes gather at the site of inflammation in order to fight the inflammation. This causes swelling and redness to appear. Measles and whooping cough are some of the other diseases which can cause a high WBC count in pregnancy.
Infection: Our body reacts to viral or bacterial infections by producing more WBCs. If there is any tissue damage, such as occurring from a cut, then also body produces more white blood cells. A high white blood cell count in pregnancy is helpful, as it is not safe for the pregnant woman to take certain types of medications for infection.
Autoimmune Disease or Leukemia: Leukemia (blood cancer) and other autoimmune diseases can occur rarely; where in leukemia, there is production of huge amount of WBCs. However, these WBCs do not fight against the disease and are in fact non-functional. High blood cell count in pregnancy can also occur from autoimmune diseases, such as Graves’ disease and Crohn’s disease.
What is the Normal WBC Count During Pregnancy?
Having a high white blood cell count is not always a cause for concern. The normal range of WBC count differs in various laboratories; however, it usually ranges between 4,500 and 10,000 per mcL. During the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, the WBC count can be between 12,000 and 18,000 per mcL and is still considered normal.
Given below is the normal range of high white blood cell count during pregnancy.
- 1st Trimester of Pregnancy: 5.7 to 13.6 x 109/L
- 2nd Trimester of Pregnancy: 5.6 to 14.8 x 109/L
- 3rd Trimester of Pregnancy: 5.6 to 16.9 x 109/L
There is no reason to panic if your WBC count falls within the range; however, if you are still concerned, then you can always consult your obstetrician/doctor regarding it.
- American Pregnancy Association. (2021). White Blood Cell Count During Pregnancy. https://americanpregnancy.org/while-pregnant/white-blood-cell-count-during-pregnancy/
- Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Understanding Blood Counts During Pregnancy. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/16811-understanding-blood-counts-during-pregnancy
- WebMD. (2021). White Blood Cell Count (WBC). https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/white-blood-cells#1
- Lab Tests Online. (2021). Complete Blood Count (CBC). https://labtestsonline.org/tests/complete-blood-count-cbc