What is hemolytic disease in newborns?

Hemolytic disease of the newborn

Hemolytic disease of the newborn (also called erythroblastosis fetalis) is a serious condition that may occur when the blood types of you and your baby do not match. Substances (antibodies) in your blood cross the placenta and may destroy the red blood cells of the fetus.

After birth, a baby with hemolytic disease may be treated with a blood transfusion.

What can you expect when your baby has hemolytic disease?

Some babies need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

A newborn with mild hemolytic disease may have jaundice or anemia. Jaundice makes the skin and the white part of the eyes look yellow. Anemia happens when a lot of red blood cells are destroyed. In severe cases, jaundice, anemia, and swelling can be very dangerous or deadly.

How is hemolytic disease in newborns treated?

Some babies with hemolytic disease may need to be delivered early. A very sick baby may need blood transfusions before birth, while still inside the mother, or after birth. In severe cases, a doctor can give blood to the fetus through the mother's belly.

Some babies may need other care, such as:

  • Extra oxygen. It is given to the baby through a tube in the nose or throat.
  • Phototherapy. This uses a special kind of light to treat jaundice.
  • Medicines and vitamins. These can help your baby make red blood cells.

What is hemolytic disease in newborns ?

Hemolytic disease happens when substances called antibodies in the mother's blood cause red blood cells in her baby's blood to be destroyed. This can occur when the blood types of a mother and her baby do not match.

All blood has something called an Rh antigen (or Rh factor). This is what makes a blood type positive or negative.

You may have Rh-negative blood and your baby has Rh-positive blood. If the two mix, your body will make antibodies. This is called Rh sensitization.

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