Leukopenia means that you have a low white blood cell count. White blood cells, or leukocytes, are vital to your immune system. They defend you from invaders like viruses and bacteria.

This article has been verified by a medical professional

A low white blood cell count usually refers to a low level of neutrophils (infection-fighting white blood cells) – this is known as neutropenia. Having too few of these cells makes you more vulnerable to infections. Because neutropenia is the most common form of leukopenia, people usually mean neutropenia when talking about leukopenia.

Impact of leukopenia on fertility

White blood cells play a role in conception and implantation, as well as the health of the mother and baby during pregnancy and the birthing process. A low amount of neutrophils during pregnancy is associated with premature labor and severe infections, which may lead to miscarriage. Some causes for leukopenia can also reduce fertility and increase the chance of complications during pregnancy.

Potential causes

Many things can reduce your white blood cell count, including:

  • Cancer treatments 
  • Genetic conditions
  • Certain medications (drugs for overactive thyroid, antibiotics, immunosuppressants)
  • Infections (HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, sepsis, and Lyme disease, among others)
  • Some medical conditions (leukemia, bone marrow disorders, autoimmune diseases) 
  • Vitamin deficiencies (vitamin B12, folic acid, or copper)
  • Excessive alcohol drinking

Chronically low levels of white blood cells may not have a clear cause.


Leukopenia doesn’t cause symptoms but makes you more prone to infections. You may experience the following sickness symptoms:

  • Fever and chills
  • Swelling
  • Mouth sores
  • Cough
  • Painful urination or strongly smelling pee
  • Diarrhea
  • Wounds that pus
  • Vaginal discharge or itching
  • Trouble breathing
  • Abdominal or rectal pain


Doctors diagnose leukopenia based on the results of a complete blood count (CBC) test. If you have symptoms of an infection, they may order additional tests such as a urine test or a chest X-ray.

Treatment to improve fertility

Leukopenia is treatable, and the prognosis is quite good. Once your doctor figures out what’s leading to your low white blood cell count, they will treat the underlying cause. For instance, you may be prescribed antibiotics or antiviral medication to treat leukopenia due to an infection.

Your doctor may also prescribe growth factor drugs, which increase white blood cell production in your bone marrow. Research shows that treatment with growth factor for women with severe chronic neutropenia is associated with a higher percentage of live births, a lower number of miscarriages, and a lower rate of severe complications for the mother and newborn.

If you have an autoimmune disorder, your doctor may have you take corticosteroids. These will prevent your body’s immune system from destroying white blood cells.

If your doctor determines that genetic mutations are responsible for your low white blood cell count, they may recommend undergoing genetic counseling before you get pregnant.

To reduce the risk of pregnancy complications due to infections, make sure you have your essential vaccinations (such as varicella, AKA chickenpox). And here are some general tips to follow to help you prevent illness when you have a low white blood cell count:

  • Keep your distance from people who are sick
  • Prepare and store food safely to prevent food poisoning
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Avoid sharing hot tubs or swimming in rivers or ponds
  • Wear gloves when changing diapers or cleaning animal poop
  • Don’t share razors or makeup with others

This article has been verified by a medical professional

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