- August 11, 2020
- Michael Allibone
- Posted in Resources
The path to parenthood is paved with tests. It all begins with a few lines on a little stick. After that, your doctor will want to run a number of routine tests to make sure you and your baby are as healthy as possible over the next nine months. Some of these tests will be pregnancy blood tests.
Understanding the results of these tests allows you to make the best choices for you and your baby. However, if you've ever tried to interpret lab results, you know that all the medical jargon can be confusing. From Hb concentration to WBC count, there are many terms mothers-to-be may not be familiar with.
To make it easier, we've gathered common phrases and abbreviations from pregnancy blood tests and broken them down so you can better understand your medical care.
Pregnancy Blood Tests: Complete Blood Count
One of the routine pregnancy blood tests you'll have is the complete blood count (CBC). This test looks at the different parts of your blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Red Blood Cells
Your red blood cells (RBC) carry oxygen from your lungs to other parts of your body. This is important during pregnancy because your baby needs that oxygen, too.
According to the University of Rochester's Health Encyclopedia, anemia in pregnancy can occur if you have too few red blood cells. A CBC will show your RBC levels. Other pregnancy blood tests that can indicate anemia look at your hemoglobin (Hb) and hematocrit (Hct) levels.
Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells. It's what carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Hematocrit measures how much of your blood is made up of red blood cells.
When you get your lab results, you'll likely see a normal range of numbers for Hb and Hct. Your doctor will discuss those results with you and let you know if you're at risk for anemia. Typically, the treatment for anemia during pregnancy is iron supplements.
White Blood Cells
Pregnancy blood tests also measure the number of white blood cells (WBC) present in your blood sample. According to an article published in the Indian Journal of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, your white blood cell count will be higher during pregnancy. This is because your body is going through a lot of stress just being pregnant.
Usually, a high WBC count indicates an infection or something else that your body is trying to fight off. But don't be alarmed if your white blood cell count is high during pregnancy. Your doctor will be able to give you more information about what your numbers mean.
A CBC test will also show the platelet count in your blood sample. Platelets are responsible for stopping bleeding and clotting blood.
According to the article published in the Indian Journal of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, the number of platelets in your blood will decrease during pregnancy. This is normal and no cause for alarm. Your doctor will check if your platelets are dangerously low, which may indicate a clotting problem.
Pregnancy Blood Tests: Blood Type & Rh Factor
In addition to the CBC, your doctor will also want to run pregnancy blood tests to determine your blood type and Rh factor. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, blood typing is used to determine if you have the Rh factor, a protein on the surface of red blood cells.
Most mothers-to-be are Rh-positive. This means their blood has the Rh factor. If you're Rh-negative, it means your blood lacks the Rh factor. This can cause problems during pregnancy if blood tests reveal that your baby is Rh-positive.
Why is this a problem? According to a study on Rh incompatibility, your body can create antibodies against the Rh factor. During future pregnancies, these antibodies can attack your baby's blood. To prevent this, your doctor will give you an injection of Rh immunoglobulin.
Pregnancy blood tests can be intimidating, especially when it comes to interpreting your lab results. Understanding common terms will give you a better picture of your health and allow you to make informed decisions during your pregnancy.
Have questions about pregnancy blood tests? Leave us a comment below, and we'll do our best to help you.
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. (2019). Routine Tests During Pregnancy. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Routine-Tests-During-Pregnancy?IsMobileSet=false#can
- Chandra, S., et al. (2012). Physiological Changes in Hematological Parameters During Pregnancy. Indian Journal of Hematology & Blood Transfusion, 28(3), 144-146. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3422383/
- Costumbrado, J., et al. (2020). Rh Incompatibility. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459353/
- Freeborn, D. (n.d.). Anemia in Pregnancy. University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P02428
- Medline Plus. (n.d.). Complete Blood Count (CBC). Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/complete-blood-count-cbc/
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