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Pregnancy Induced Thrombocytopenia

Women are more commonly diagnosed with platelet disorders during pregnancy because automated blood counts are used for screening as part of the first clinical evaluation.

Many disorders can cause thrombocytopenia, and several of them are associated with pregnancy. Thrombocytopenia is a medical condition where there is a deficiency of platelets in your blood that can inhibit blood clotting.

What exactly is Pregnancy Induced Thrombocytopenia?

As the smallest blood cell in the human body, platelets—also referred to as thrombocytes—are essential for blood coagulation. Your complete blood count (CBC) usually indicates the amount of these specialized cells that are released from your bone marrow in your blood. It makes sense that being pregnant is typically a "pro-clotting" state as clotting protects women from excessive bleeding during childbirth. But there is a delicate balance between activities that help your blood clot and those that cause too much clotting.

When platelets function properly, they work with other blood components that control bleeding and seal holes in the walls of blood vessels. In the worst-case scenario, platelets can clot in the blood vessels where plaque has accumulated. Your risk of heart attacks and strokes may rise as a result.  Maternal issues such as excessive bleeding, premature delivery, or inability to get an epidural can arise due to insufficient platelets, also known as thrombocytopenia.

Thrombocytopenia frequently manifests as a "silent" illness with few obvious symptoms. Mild symptoms like bleeding gums after tooth brushing, easily bruising, or reddish-purple spots (petechiae) from bleeding beneath the skin have been observed by patients. But thrombocytopenia can swiftly deteriorate. Beginning with the underlying reason for their problem, patients with low platelets need to be aware of their risk during pregnancy and delivery.

How is this condition treated?

Early in your pregnancy, your OB or midwife will gather your history, perform an exam and order a blood test to check platelet levels. Thrombocytopenia is usually indicated by a platelet count of less than 150,000. Most likely, your doctor will recommend that you see a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist and will do routine blood testing to check your platelet counts throughout your pregnancy. When you get to the hospital for your delivery, you'll also get blood testing done.

Interventions will vary according to severity and platelet counts. In severe situations, you might not be able to receive an epidural because of the risk of hematoma, or you might require a platelet transfusion. The technique and level of comfort used by anesthesiologists while administering an epidural differ based on the platelet count. Other alternatives and results will be discussed with you by your MFM practitioner. A cesarean under general anesthesia is necessary if you do end up needing one and cannot receive an epidural. Additionally, blood and platelets will be available at the hospital for transfusion if needed.

Are there any action steps I can take in my day-to-day life?

You can try boosting your platelet levels through diet and supplementation.  Increasing your consumption of complete, fresh foods—fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains—may be beneficial. Particularly, pay attention to leafy greens like kale, collard greens, spinach, and seaweed. These are rich in calcium, vitamin K, folate, and other nutrients that promote the health of platelets. Vitamin K is also abundant in chlorophyll.

Pregnant women with Thrombocytopenia should be taking 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate each day. B12 is also important for platelet health and 2.6 mcg daily is recommended for pregnant women. If you consume meat products, beef liver is rich in folate and B12. You don’t have to eat beef liver, it comes in capsule form. And of course, always consult your OB or midwife before starting any supplementation.

In Summary

Seeing a low number or a phrase like "thrombocytopenia" on your lab results can be concerning. For the majority of patients, mild-to-moderately low platelets won't drastically change your prenatal treatment or delivery plan. However, it is important to talk with your doctor about your risks for complications related to low platelets. If your lab results indicate low platelets, ask your provider to explain what that means for you. We're here to help you make informed decisions and have a healthier, safer pregnancy and delivery!

Personal note: I had pregnancy-induced Thrombocytopenia and was supplemented with chlorophyll. My platelet numbers increased just enough to where I was at lower risk for a hematoma. It tasted a little funny but seemed to work for me!

By: Dr. Laudeman

Chiropractor at ANH Wellness

Disclaimer: "The information including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment."

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