Fetal Anemia

What is fetal anemia?

Fetal anemia is a low red blood cell count in the fetus. Fetal anemia most commonly results from an incompatibility between the mother’s blood and fetal blood (also known as isoimmunization), but it can also be due to infections and certain genetic conditions. Fetal anemia can lead to cardiac failure and fetal hydrops.

How is fetal anemia diagnosed?

Fetal anemia can be suspected after taking a maternal history, sonographic findings, and sonographic assessment of the blood flow within the fetal middle cerebral artery.

When fetal anemia is suspected, it is confirmed via a procedure called percutaneous umbilical blood sampling (PUBS). This is a prenatal diagnostic test in which a small amount of fetal blood is sampled from the umbilical cord using a needle and ultrasound guidance.

How does the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford team typically treat fetal anemia?

Monitoring the condition may be all that is needed. If the anemia is more severe, your baby may need a PUBS procedure and blood and/or platelet transfusion while in the womb. These can be performed at the same time at Packard Children’s Hospital.

What happens after the transfusion for fetal anemia?

Some conditions leading to fetal anemia require multiple transfusions during the pregnancy. After an initial fetal transfusion, ongoing ultrasound surveillance is performed to determine the need and timing of additional transfusions.

What problems could fetal anemia cause after birth?

It is important that delivery occur in a hospital that can provide a high level of neonatal care, including our Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), in order to address any complications from the anemia. Most babies do well after birth. Jaundice may occur and require either careful monitoring or treatment.