Fetal anemia is a condition in which the red blood cells and hemoglobin circulating in a fetus falls below normal levels. One of the most common causes of fetal anemia is red-cell alloimmunization, when the fetus and the mother’s blood types are incompatible. This causes the mother’s antibodies to destroy the fetus’s blood cells. Other common causes include infections or genetic disorders.
Severe fetal anemia can cause a variety of adverse effects, including cardiac complications such as heart failure. This can in turn cause fluids to accumulate in the body of the fetus (hydrops). If left untreated, these condition can lead to the death of the fetus. Therefore it is paramount to diagnose fetal anemia so it can be managed properly.
Fetal Anemia Diagnosis
In the past, fetal anemia was been diagnosed using invasive procedures such as amniocentesis (procedure that takes fluid that surrounds the fetus), and cordocentesis (procedure that takes blood from the umbilical cord). These procedures were often unnecessary and put fetuses at risk of death.
Research performed by UH maternal fetal medicine specialists has demonstrated that fetal anemia can be noninvasively diagnosed with Doppler ultrasonography. Using ultrasound, our experts measure fetal blood velocity to determine if fetal anemia is present. This method is now standard of care around the world.
Fetal Anemia Treatment
Mild cases of fetal anemia may only require continued monitoring during the remainder of the pregnancy. However, severe fetal anemia may require one or more in-utero blood transfusions. After transfusion, our team will continue to monitor the fetus’s condition to see if further intervention is needed.