Evidence-based obstetric management of women with sickle cell disease in low-income countries

Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program. 2022 Dec 9;2022(1):414-420. doi: 10.1182/hematology.2022000377.


Pregnancy in women with sickle cell disease (SCD) is fraught with complications, some of which are life-threatening. Managing pregnancy in these women can be challenging, especially with poor resources, which is often the case in low-income countries. In Nigeria, for instance, up to 90% of patients pay out of pocket for medical care due to the poorly developed health insurance system, and this worsens the morbidity and mortality associated with this condition. We describe a pragmatic approach to routinely managing pregnant women with SCD in the antenatal period, showing the feasibility of effective management of these high-risk pregnancies in limited-resource settings. We also present the case of a pregnant Nigerian woman with SCD who has intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and acute chest syndrome (ACS), conditions that are life-threatening for the fetus and the mother, respectively, and require prompt intervention. We highlight how we successfully managed this woman in a cost-effective manner by employing relatively inexpensive tests for diagnosis and treating her effectively with oxygen, appropriate antibiotics and manual exchange blood transfusion for the ACS, and finger pulse oximeters to monitor oxygen saturation. We explore pathophysiological concepts to IUGR in women with SCD and briefly discuss the appropriate mode of delivery, including the options for pain relief in labor.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Chest Syndrome*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / complications
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / therapy
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / therapy
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic* / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic* / therapy