Sickle Cell and Pregnancy
Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder caused by an abnormal hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen in the red blood cells). It affects millions of people worldwide, typically of African and Mediterranean ancestries. Pregnancy, as with all diseases, can be a difficult time for those affected by sickle cell disease and can result in difficulty delivering a healthy baby. Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of complications.
Talk to Your Doctor
When it comes to sickle cell disease and pregnancy, the most important step is to consult your doctor. Your doctor will be able to assess your individual condition and provide advice tailored to your needs. They should also review your existing medications, provide guidelines on labor and delivery, and suggest other treatments to reduce pain and the severity of possible complications.
Prepare Ahead of Time
When preparing, it is important that you pay attention to your own health. Prior to getting pregnant, aim to maintain a healthy weight, get vaccinated to prevent infections, take a folate supplement and keep up with regular exercise. During pregnancy, pay close attention to your diet and drink plenty of water and get adequate rest. Try to limit stressful situations and strive to stay away from sick people.
Carry a Fetal Monitor
In order to best monitor your baby, you should use a fetal monitor to track your baby’s heart rate during labor and delivery. This can help your doctor detect potential issues with baby’s health and can help prevent problems at delivery.
Sickle cell pain can be hard to manage during pregnancy. To ease this pain, use non-narcotic medications, such as acetaminophen. If your doctor has prescribed narcotics (opioids) for the relief of pain, it is important to be aware of their potential dangers. Narcotics can interfere with labor and delivery, so you should use them only when absolutely necessary and under the supervision of your doctor.
Receive IV Fluids
IV fluids can help prevent complications related to sickle cell disease, such as anemia. Your doctor will recommend the appropriate fluids to keep you healthy and can monitor your progress during labor.
Plan for Delivery
The delivery of your baby should be planned with your doctor in advance. Depending on your health and the health of your baby, your doctor may recommend a cesarean delivery. For women with sickle cell disease, the cesarean delivery provides greater control over the delivery, reduces the risk of infection, and provides faster recovery for the mother.
Sickle cell disease can have a significant impact on pregnancy, but with proper planning, care, and preparation, it is possible to deliver a healthy baby. By consulting with your doctor, being aware of your health, and following these tips, you can reduce the risk of complications due to sickle cell disease and have a safe and successful pregnancy.
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