The need for blood in pregnancy and childbirth

The need for blood in pregnancy and childbirth

Every year, 175,000 Australian couples will have their first child. While it can be the happiest time of your life, if you’re a first-time father or partner and you’re feeling…well, a bit useless – you’re not alone. Find out how you can show your support.

Maybe your foot massage technique just doesn't cut the mustard. Perhaps you feel like you’re not pulling your weight as your partner grows steadily heavier. There’s a huge gap between the desire of partners to help during pregnancy and their actual ability to do so.

The role blood plays in pregnancy and childbirth

We all know that donating blood saves lives and helps people when they’re ill or injured. But it’s less widely known how important blood donations are for pregnant women, with more than one in six expectant mothers likely to need blood or blood derived products during pregnancy or childbirth.

If there are complications during pregnancy, blood could be vital to your family's health. Some conditions where blood products are crucial, and at times life-saving, include:

  • Anaemia: Increased blood and red blood cells mean pregnant women need more iron, and iron deficiencies are common. In severe cases, a mother may need a red cell transfusion to protect her and the baby if her deficiency can’t be managed any other way.
  • Bleeding: This can often occur throughout pregnancy without the need for blood products or major worry. But in some cases, depending on the cause and extent of bleeding, women need a transfusion of red cells, platelets and plasma products (learn more about the components of your blood).
  • Haemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN): This is when the mother’s body develops antibodies that attack the baby’s red blood cells, leading to anaemia. When it’s severe, the baby will need a transfusion of red cells. Find out more about HDN, when you read Heather and her daughter Alison’s experience.
  • Immune platelet disorders: These disorders happen when a mother’s platelet antibodies cross the placenta and harm the baby’s platelets. Treatment involves immunoglobulin for the mother and special platelet transfusions until delivery and in the first few days of life for the baby.

So, how can you help?

One blood donation saves three lives. As you prepare for your baby to enter the world, imagine the satisfaction of knowing you’ve given the gift of blood to new mothers and their babies at their most vulnerable time.

The best part is that you can donate whole blood every three months, or every trimester, and plasma every two weeks. It’s a small act of kindness that can make a world of difference to someone’s life, and it’s probably the most useful thing you’ll do in a long time.