White Blood Cells Count in Pregnancy: What is Normal and What is Not?


Pregnancy is not at all as simple as it appears to be. It is a very complicated process. It involves metabolic, haematological and biochemical changes in body. The changes occurring in body are both gradual as well as sudden. A mother must know about all those changes occurring in her body. So that she can be prepared for them. Here, we are going to discuss about changes occurring in white blood cells.

What are white blood cells?

Blood is the transportation unit of our body. It is responsible for transporting nutrients, immune cells, enzymes, hormones etc. Blood consist of various types of cells which do this work. White blood cells are one of them. White blood cells are responsible for immunity. They protect our body from various infections.

White Blood Cells Count in Pregnancy

white blood cells count in pregnancy

Role of white blood cells

White blood cells are the indicators of immune system of body. They are also known as leukocytes. They are of different types, each have a specific role to play. Together they prepare the immune system of  our body. They fight against the foreign invaders in the body.

White blood cells in a non pregnant normal adult

In a non pregnant normal adult, total white blood cell count ranges from anywhere in between 4,500 – 11,000/ cu mm. While during pregnancy the lower limit has to be 6000/ cu mm. Increases or decreases in white blood cell count may indicate a pathologic condition.

Types of white blood cells

Neutrophil– they consist the highest percent of white blood cells. They mainly fight against bacteria and fungi.


Eosinophil– they mainly act against parasites and are mediator of allergic responses. In a person suffering from allergic disorder like hay fever or asthma the eosinophilic count increases.

Basophil– these cells are responsible for the release of histamine in body. Histamine is responsible for the inflammatory responses. Inflammation is the primary response of body to any external or internal wound. Thus basophils are very important. They are the indicators of inflammation in our body.

Lymphocyte– they are the second largest number of cells in the body. Lymphocytes are again further divided into various types. Overall they are the releasers of antibodies, the most important component of our immune system. They are also responsible for protecting bodies in other ways like by phagocytosis (engulfing bacteria), chemotaxis (killing with chemicals), memory (keeping the bacteria in memory, so that next attack can me more powerful), suppressing the killing of our own body etc.

Monocyte– they also are formed from the bone marrow. They circulate in the blood for few days then they migrate into tissue, to form tissue specific immune cells. They have important function in tissue inflammation and tissue repaired.

Change in count of WBCs

Increase in white blood cells countincrease in white blood cells count indicates that the body is fighting infection. It shows that body is under an attack. Abnormal increase shows abnormal working of immune system

  • Causes- causes of increase in white blood cells count are autoimmune disorder, deficient immune system or any blood disorder. It may indicate increase in formation or decrease in death of white blood cells.
  • Symptoms- symptoms are headache, dizziness, frequent fever, local inflammation, frequent allergy etc

Decrease in white blood cells countdecrease in white blood cells count indicates that body is unable to fight an infection. in this case a person is very vulnerable to infections

  • Causes- causes may be sepsis, autoimmune disorders, lymphoma, and abnormal bone marrow function.
  • Symptoms- symptoms may be lethargy, serious complications of simple infections, long lasting viral infection. Body mainly is unable to fight infections.

Changes in pregnancy

Pregnancy involves immeasurable changes in blood compositions to protect the baby. During pregnancy the total blood volume increases. The red blood cell volume also increases. This happens to prevent anaemia and also as a preventive measure of post partum haemorrhage.

Similarly the white blood cells count also increase. Increase in white blood cells count is known as leukocytosis. This happens due to psychological as well as physiological stress on body. During pregnancy mother’s body has to adapt partially to a foreign body. Since her blood comes in contact with the placenta. Thus there is activation of immune system in body. This causes over all increases in the white blood cell count. During pregnancy normal lower limit of white blood cells count is >6000/cu mm. While in 3rd trimester even a count upto 12,000/cu mm- 18,000/cu mm is considered normal. Thus during pregnancy the normal range is abnormal. Some other changes which are specific to the types of white blood cells are as follows

Netrophilsthey are the major type of cells. During pregnancy number of neutrophils increase. There is increase in blood serum which in turn causes increase in neutrophils also. In pregnant female, inhibitory factors are present which inhibit the apoptosis. Apoptosis in natural cell death. Due to inhibition of neutrophilic apoptosis there is increase in netrophils. Neutrophilia during pregnancy is neither abnormal nor dangerous. And does not indicate any pathology.

Eosinophils and Basophilsthere is no change in count of eosinophils and basophils. Thus increase in these may indicate an actual allergic or inflammatory reaction

Monocytesit is studied that there is activation of monocytes during pregnancy. Thus increase in number of monocytes during pregnancy is normal. But monocytes are an indicator of preeclampsia also. Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy, which is characterised by hypertension and proteinuria. Monocytes are also subdivided into 3 types. Rise of these types in a specific form indicates preeclampsia. Thus if there is very high rise in monocytes, or if mother has risk factors for preeclampsia, doctor may order detailed test for monocytes.

Lymphocyteslymphocyte count increases in 1st trimester during pregnancy and decreases during 2nd and 3rd


Myelocytes and metamyelocytes the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are all formed from similar pre cursors. They are formed in bone marrow. Myelocytes and metamyelocytes are the two immature forms of red blood cells and white blood cells. If there is increase in those in a normal adult, then it is considered as a strong pathologic condition. But during pregnancy it is normal since this happens due to increases activity of bone marrow to form more red blood cells.

This was some information about the changes in white blood cells during pregnancy. Pregnancy involves innumerable changes in body sometimes they give you pains, scars and stress. Pain and scar are not much of a problem. They can be prevented as well as they are accepted and rejoiced by a mother. But stress is one of the greatest enemies of you and your baby’s health.  So try to be stress free as much as possible. Any doubt should be asked to your doctor or any trusted source. Wishing you and your baby a healthy life!

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