Is Blood Transfusion Safe During Pregnancy?

Blood transfusion save million lives every blessed year worldwide. It’s actually one of the most effective medical procedures used to restore peoples’ blood loss due to surgeries, injuries and diseases.

However one question that normally comes up – Is blood transfusion safe during pregnancy?

A transfusion during pregnancy becomes necessary in response to severe conditions like acute anaemia, haemorrhage, or a complication known as haemolytic disease of the newborn.

While it can be lifesaving for both mother and child, it may carry some possible risks, which will be thoroughly discussed here.

In this article, we’ll examine the safety of transfusions during pregnancy, reasons, potential risks and some alternatives. 

Is it safe to get blood transfusion during pregnancy?

Of course, receiving a blood transfusion while pregnant can be safe and is often necessary in specific critical situations to ensure the health of the mother and child.

A major cause that usually requires this procedure is haemorrhaging. This is a condition, which involves bleeding to excess, often leading to anaemia(loss of blood).

This can result from various circumstances including potential complications from a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

Additionally, blood transfusions could be crucial for pregnant individuals suffering from heavy bleeding (from accidents) or those who have very low blood levels just before their due dates.

Transfusions help to get rid of these conditions and reduce symptoms of dizziness and weakness.

The World Health Organization keeps advocating that the quality and safety of blood and its components used in transfusions should always be top-notch in order to promote better outcomes for patients worldwide, including pregnant individuals.

However, like any medical procedure, blood transfusions carry potential risks, and doctors would consider them against the benefits to make the best decision that ensures you and the baby are completely safe.

Why would you need a blood transfusion during pregnancy?

  • Anaemia:

If a pregnant woman develops severe anaemia (also, low red blood cell count) and treatments like iron supplements doesn’t work, a transfusion may be necessary to improve oxygen delivery to both the mother and the baby.

  • Bleeding Disorders:

Some women may have conditions that makes them bleed or increase their risk to bleeding during pregnancy or childbirth.  

In cases where it becomes excess, a blood transfusion may be required to replace lost blood and stabilize the mother’s condition.

  • Placental Abruption:

This is a serious complication where the placenta separates from the walls of the womb even before delivery. This can cause the woman to bleed and may require a transfusion when it becomes severe.

  • Ectopic Pregnancy:

In cases of ectopic pregnancy, it will require a surgery to remove the embryo and check beeding. Blood transfusions may be needed if there has been significant blood loss.

  • Preparation for Delivery:

Anemia due to iron deficiency is commonplace. However, for anemic women, even mild bleeding during delivery could lead to severe complications. For prevention, a blood transfusion may be administered before delivery.

Considerations for a safe blood transfusion during pregnancy

When considering this procedure during pregnancy, healthcare providers take several factors into account.

This is to ensure that the procedure is absolutely safe and mom and baby aren’t negatively affected in any way.

While they play their part to keep you safe, it is important to keep abreast with these guidelines:

Blood Compatibility:

It’s critical to ensure that the donated blood is compatible with the pregnant individual’s bloodtype. A compatibility test or crossmatch is done before every blood transfusion to prevent severe, adverse reactions.

Gestational Age:

The gestational age of the pregnancy is an important factor to consider. In certain situations such as during the first trimester, health care experts may want to check other treatment methods in order to get away with the risks associated with this procedure.

Compatibility and Screening:

Blood products used for transfusions should be screened for infectious diseases and properly crossmatched to ensure compatibility.

Special attention may be needed if the mother has antibodies or sensitivities that could affect compatibility.


Typically, a small tube is inserted into a vein in the hand or arm and the transfusing blood is applied through a drip.

The expert doing it usually manages your safety and comfort. In cases where you feel unbearable pain or discomfort, you should let him or her know.


Close monitoring is essential during and after the blood transfusion. Important signs such as pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation, should be checked to detect any possible reactions or complications promptly.

Transfusion Reactions:

Healthcare providers should be prepared to manage any transfusion reactions, such as allergic reactions or hemolytic reactions, promptly and effectively.

Fetal Assessment:

In cases where a blood transfusion is needed due to maternal conditions affecting the fetus, the baby’s well being may be assessed through methods like monitoring or ultrasound to ensure it is tolerating the procedure.

Risk of Side Effects:

There’s always the potential risk of effects during or after the procedure. While these are generally rare, you should be appropriately informed and monitored for potential symptoms.

What are the side effects of blood transfusion during pregnancy?

Blood transfusions, just like some other regular medical procedures, can have possible risks and downsides.

It’s important to know that while these effects are possible, they are uncommon, and doctors take strict measures to minimize them;

Reaction to the Transfusion:

Like any other medical procedure,  reactions may occur which can include symptoms like dizziness and feeling unwell.  

Although not a medical emergency if the bleeding has stopped, doctors will often offer a post-birth transfusion to address these symptoms.

Rh Incompatibility:

There’s also the possibility of Rh incompatibility. In case of Rh negative mothers, red blood cells might penetrate the placenta and attack an Rh positive baby in subsequent pregnancies, which can be fatal.

It’s important for Rh negative mothers to take an antibody test to detect potential Rh positive antibodies early in the pregnancy

Transfusion Reactions:

Transfusion reactions can occur if the donor’s blood mismatches the recipient’s type.

This may lead to symptoms like chest pain, chills, fever, and breathing difficulties. Immediate recognition and treatment are critical to manage these reactions.

Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury:

TRALI is a rare but severe complication of blood transfusion that can cause acute respirator issues and lung injury.

It typically occurs within a few hours of a transfusion. Prompt medical intervention is necessary to manage TRALI.

Transfusion Associated Circulatory Overload:

TACO can occur when a large volume of blood is transfused too quickly, causing the circulatory system to overload.

Symptoms may include cough, fluid retention and shortness of breadth. Adjusting the rate of transfusion and monitoring can help prevent TACO.


While blood is screened for infectious diseases, there is still a small risk of receiving a contaminated one. However, this risk is relatively low due to strict blood donor screening and testing protocols.

Iron Overload:

Repeated blood transfusions can lead to iron overload in the body, which can cause complications such as liver damage, heart problems, and endocrine disorders.

Pregnant women who require multiple transfusions may need iron-chelating therapy to manage iron levels.

Delayed Hemolytic Transfusion Reactions:

In some cases, a delayed immune response may occur after the transfusion, which can destroy transfused red blood cells.

This typically happens days to weeks after you’re done with the procedure and may unfortunately cause anaemia


Alloimmunization can occur when the mother’s immune system forms antibodies against certain antigens present on the transfused red blood cells.

This can complicate future pregnancies if the antibodies attack the baby’s red blood cells (hemolytic disease of the newborn).

What happens to your body after a blood transfusion?

  • Your blood volume increases:  

The ultimate reason for transfusion in pregnancy is to increase your blood volume. This helps to replenish lost bloods due to various reasons like surgery, injury, or other medical conditions.

  • Blood levels will be restored:

It can replenish specific components your body might need, such as red blood cells, plasma, and platelets.

These components have various roles, helping with oxygen transport, nutrient delivery, and clot formation respectively.

  • Symptom Alleviation:

After the transfusion, symptoms associated with medical conditions like anemia, including fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness, usually start to get better

  • Immune System Response:

The recipient’s immune system may recognize the transfused blood as foreign initially, but the risk of a severe immune response is relatively low due to blood compatibility testing and matching procedures.

However, mild reactions like fever or chills can occur in some cases.

How long do you stay in hospital after a blood transfusion?

After a transfusion, the time length you’re likely to spend in the hospital  can vary upon factors like your health condition and how severe your symptoms are.

The blood transfusion procedure generally takes between 1 to 4 hours, but this does not include before and after monitoring periods.

Additionally, if a transfusion is conducted in response to a surgical procedure or severe illness, then your hospital stay could be extended until the condition is stable.

In as much as blood transfusions are generally safe, you may experience mild to severe complications during and after the procedure.

These potential complications may include allergies and fever which might extend your hospital stay if they require additional medical care.

In any case, the healthcare expert would discuss with you the specific length of a hospital stay following a blood transfusion, as they closely keep monitoring you.

Alternatives to blood transfusions for pregnant women

  • Intravenius and oral iron
  • Folic acid and Vitamin B12
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Tranexamic acid and cell salvage
  • Supplements and steroids
  • Treating the underlying cause

FAQs – Is Blood Transfusion Safe During Pregnancy?

Is blood transfusion safe during early pregnancy?

Yes, it is considered  a safe procedure during early stages of pregnancy but they are reserved for severe cases like increased blood loss or anaemia.

Is blood transfusion safe during delivery?

Yes, blood transfusions are generally safe during delivery and can be lifesaving in cases of excessive blood loss or severe anemia. Healthcare providers will take necessary caveats to minimize risks and ensure that mom and baby is completely safe.

What happens when a baby needs a blood transfusion?

When a baby needs a blood transfusion, the medical team assess its blood type and suitability to ensure a safe procedure.

Blood transfusions in babies can treat conditions like anemia, jaundice, or Rh incompatibility. Healthcare providers closely monitor the baby throughout the process.

Can blood transfusion affect fertility?

There is no direct evidence to suggest that blood transfusions affect fertility. However, the underlying condition requiring the transfusion might have an impact on fertility. It’s important to discuss individual concerns with a healthcare provider.

What are WHO guidelines for blood transfusion in pregnancy

The World Health Organization gives the green light for expectant mothers to have blood transfusion when they have significantly lost blood or are suffering from other critical medical conditions.

WHO encourages the use of appropriate blood screening, compatible blood types, and careful monitoring during the transfusion to minimize risks

What happens if haemoglobin is low during pregnancy?

Low hemoglobin during pregnancy is a sign of anaemia. Mild anaemia will cause maageable symptoms like fatigue, weakness and dizziness.

Severe anaemia will cause more critical symptoms like preterm birth, low birth weight or at the very extreme, maternal or fetal mortality. Treatment options include iron supplements, increased dietary iron, and blood transfusions in severe cases.

Can fetus have a blood transfusion?

Yes, a fetus can receive a blood transfusion through a procedure called intrauterine transfusion (IUT). This rare treatment involves supplyingblood to baby while in the womb.

It’s typically performed in cases of severe anemia or Rh incompatibility. The procedure carries risks and is typically reserved for the most critical situations.


Blood transfusion during pregnancy is generally considered safe and are used to manage certain conditions when the benefits surpasses the downsides.

They serve as a vital tool for the management of complications such as severe anemia or significant blood loss during delivery, and can be lifesaving in these contexts.

The procedure is performed under the expert guidance of healthcare professionals who follow stringent safety checks, including careful screening of the blood for infections, verifying blood type compatibility, and closely monitoring the mother throughout the procedure.

However, just like all medical procedures, blood transfusions come with a little risk. The decision to proceed with one is therefore made after thoroughly assessing your condition and considering both the potential benefit to you and the unborn baby as well as perhaps the potential risks.

It’s important to take keen notes that while it is a great medical intervention, several alternatives do exist.

If your previous bood transfusion came along with huge side effects, then you may want to stay off and try these alternatives.

Consultation your healthcare provider is crucial to determine the best course of action in each case.


Georgina Austin

Georgina Austin

Georgina is a certified midwife, a seasoned writer and a mother of twins - Noel and Noelle. She brings to this blog eleven years of experience in maternity support, coupled with her personal motherhood adventures to give you factual information on women's health.

Aside writing on pregnancy and breastfeeding, she writes on sexual health concerns, birth control guides, egg donation, sibling dynamics, and balancing the demands of multiple children.