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Sickle Cell Disease in Pregnancy, Management of (Green-top Guideline No. 61)

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Summary: Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited single-gene autosomal recessive disorders caused by the ‘sickle’ gene, which affects haemoglobin structure. SCD has its origins in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, hence it is most prevalent in individuals of African descent as well as in the Caribbean, Middle East, parts of India and the Mediterranean, and South and Central America. Owing to population migration, SCD is now of increasing importance worldwide and there are increasing numbers of affected individuals in Europe and the USA.

The term SCD includes sickle cell anaemia (HbSS) and the heterozygous conditions of haemoglobin S and other clinically abnormal haemoglobins. These include combination with haemoglobin C (giving HbSC), combination with beta thalassaemia (giving HbSB thalassaemia) and combination with haemoglobin D, E or O-Arab. All of these genotypes will give a similar clinical phenotype of varying  severity. Haemoglobin S combined with normal haemoglobin (A), known as sickle trait (AS), is asymptomatic, except for a possible increased risk of urinary tract infections and microscopic haematuria, and is not considered further in this guideline.

SCD is the most common inherited condition worldwide. About 300 000 children with SCD are born each year; two-thirds of these births are in Africa. In the UK, it is estimated that there are 12 000–15 000 affected individuals and over 300 infants born with SCD in the UK each year who are diagnosed as part of the neonatal screening programme. There are approximately 100–200 pregnancies in women with SCD per year in the UK; pregnancy outcome in this group is currently being assessed by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System.

The purpose of this guideline is to describe the management of pregnant women with sickle cell disease (SCD). It includes preconceptual screening and antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal management. It does not cover the management of women with sickle cell trait.

COVID disclaimer: This guideline was developed as part of the regular programme of Green-top Guidelines, as outlined in our document Developing a Green-top Guideline: Guidance for developers (PDF), and prior to the emergence of COVID-19.

Version history: This is the first edition of this guideline.

The British Society for Haematology have agreed to take over and update this guideline. This version will remain valid until the publication of new guidance by BSH.

Developer declaration of interests: Available on request.



This page was last reviewed 26 August 2011.