What is high white blood cell count when pregnant?

High white blood cell count when pregnant is very likely due to stress from pregnancy.
High white blood cell count when pregnant is very likely due to stress from pregnancy.

Some effects of pregnancy are very obvious, but some are far more subtle. For example, pregnant women experience an average of 50% increase in blood volume. Because you have more blood as a pregnant woman, it’s essential to monitor your blood cell percentages.

White blood cells are a type of blood cell that come from your bone marrow. As part of the body’s immune system, they help the body stay healthy and fight sickness.

Usually, a high white blood cell count means that your body is defending itself from an illness or disease and is under stress. However, during pregnancy, it is normal to have a high white blood cell count reading. After all, your body is under so much stress just by being pregnant. A high white blood cell count on its own is no cause for alarm.

Throughout your pregnancy, your doctor should give you blood tests frequently. Because it is a stressful time for your body, keeping tabs on how your blood is reacting is very important.

Signs of high white blood cell count when pregnant

Usually, in people who are not pregnant, symptoms of high white blood cell count include:

However, during pregnancy, these symptoms may not occur. Medical professionals have their own white blood cell count ranges for people who are pregnant. To find out what is considered a healthy range, talk to your doctor.

Causes of high white blood cell count when pregnant

Every body and every pregnancy is different. There is no one definitive cause for having a high white blood cell count during pregnancy. Just as your body produces as much sweat as it needs to cool you down after exercising or in hot weather, your body produces however many white blood cells it needs to stay healthy.

Most of the reasons that pregnant women might have abnormally high white blood cell counts are why people usually have a higher white blood cell count. Some of those common causes are:

1. Pregnancy itself

There is a lot of stress that comes with pregnancy, both mentally and physically, which can increase white blood cells. When pregnant, it is important to relax and allow yourself time and space to de-stress, both for your body and your mind.

2. Infection

Because white blood cells are part of your immune system, any infection can cause you to have a higher white blood cell count. Anything from a cold to an eye infection will cause your white blood cell count to go up.

3. Autoimmune disease or inflammation

If you have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, it causes your body to produce high volumes of white blood cells. Similarly, if you have any inflammation or allergic reaction, your white blood cell count will increase.

4. Leukemia

Leukemia — or cancer of the blood — starts with bone marrow producing a specific kind of white blood cell. Thusly a higher rate of these indicates that you might have leukemia.

It is extremely rare for pregnant women to get diagnosed with leukemia. However, should you be diagnosed with it while pregnant, there are a wide variety of treatment options to keep you and your baby safe.

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When to see a doctor for high white blood cell count when pregnant

To know whether or not you have a high white blood cell count, you have to see a doctor. The doctor will run tests on your blood to determine your blood cell count. If you are pregnant, you should see the doctor at least once a month. At your appointments, your doctor will monitor your blood cell counts and let you know if they think your blood cell count is too high.

Of course, if you have a preexisting condition, infection, or autoimmune disease, you will know what the symptoms of those are and if you should see a doctor for them. If you have an allergic reaction or experience irregular inflammation, you should also see a doctor.

Tests for high white blood cell count when pregnant

To get your blood tested, your doctor or nurse will take a blood sample from you by putting a needle into your arm and extracting a blood sample. After they collect the sample, they will analyze it for white blood cell count, among other things.

There is nothing you need to do to prepare for a blood test. After the blood test, the area where they extracted your blood might be a little sensitive, but it should heal fairly quickly.

Your blood test will be a comprehensive survey, not just for white blood cells but also for other elements of your blood.

Treatments for high white blood cell count when pregnant

Having a higher-than-average white blood cell count is very likely when you are pregnant. It is incredibly stressful — physically and mentally — to be pregnant. Understand that your body is going through many changes and make sure to get adequate rest.

If you have a preexisting condition or develop a condition that makes you have a higher-than-normal amount of white blood cells, talk to your doctor.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/21/2021
References
American Family Physician: "Evaluation of Patients and Leukocytosis."

Britannica: "White blood cell."

Clinics in Haematology: "Blood volume changes in normal pregnancy."

Indian Journal of Hematology and Blood Transfusion: "Physiological Changes in Hematological Parameters During Pregnancy."

Leukaemia Foundation: "Pregnancy with a blood cancer."

MedlinePlus: "White Blood Count (WBC)."

Roswell Park: "How Fast Does Leukemia Develop?"

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: "What Is a Blood Count and What Does It Mean for Your Heart Health?"

University of Rochester Medical Center: "Anemia in Pregnancy."

University of Rochester Medical Center: "What Are White Blood Cells?"