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Erythroblastosis Fetalis: What Is It, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

erythroblastosis fetalis

Have you ever wondered what happens when the blood of the mother and the baby are not entirely compatible during pregnancy? Erythroblastosis Fetalis is a condition that occurs when there is blood incompatibility between the mother and the baby during pregnancy. The most common incompatibility is related to the Rh factor.

In this article, we will explain what erythroblastosis fetalis is, its symptoms, risk factors, prevention methods, treatment, and other relevant information about this condition.

What is Erythroblastosis Fetalis?

Erythroblastosis fetalis is a disease that occurs when the mother has Rh-negative blood, and the developing baby has Rh-positive blood. Blood incompatibility arises when the baby’s blood enters the mother’s bloodstream, sensitizing her immune system. This sensitization leads to the mother producing antibodies that can cross the placenta and attack the baby’s red blood cells.

Diagnosis and Monitoring

During prenatal care the doctor will request tests, such as the Indirect Coombs test or Irregular Antibody Screening (IAS), to check if the mother has already been sensitized to the antigen D. If the tests are positive, it means she has been sensitized, and the baby may be at risk of developing erythroblastosis fetalis. 

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Symptoms of Erythroblastosis Fetalis

In most cases, pregnant women do not exhibit visible symptoms of the disease, making diagnosis challenging without appropriate tests. Babies tend to show an increase in blood flow velocity. As the disease progresses, the baby may develop swelling (hydrops) and, at birth, anemia and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). In severe cases, the newborn can suffer from brain damage, heart failure, or liver problems.


Risk Factors

The primary risk factor for erythroblastosis fetalis is blood incompatibility between the mother and the baby with respect to the Rh factor. Women with Rh-negative blood who become pregnant with a Rh-positive partner are more susceptible to developing the disease.

Prevention of Erythroblastosis Fetalis

The best way to prevent fetal erythroblastosis is to avoid sensitizing the mother to the fetal blood antigen D. This can be achieved through the early administration of anti-D immunoglobulin. This immunoglobulin is usually administered at the time of delivery and, in some cases, also at the 28th week of gestation. 

Treatment of Erythroblastosis Fetalis

The treatment of fetal erythroblastosis will depend on the severity of the baby’s anemia. In mild cases, no additional treatment may be necessary, apart from careful medical observation. However, when anemia is severe, an intrauterine blood transfusion to the fetus may be necessary to increase the quantity of healthy blood cells.

Fetal erythroblastosis is a serious condition that can affect the baby’s health during pregnancy. Blood incompatibility between the mother and the baby, particularly regarding the Rh factor, is the leading cause of this disease. Fortunately, early administration of anti-D immunoglobulin is an effective measure to prevent maternal sensitization and reduce the risks of fetal erythroblastosis.

Early diagnosis and proper prenatal care are essential to ensure the baby’s well-being and prevent complications resulting from fetal anemia. Whenever there are doubts or concerns during pregnancy, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider for guidance and appropriate care. 

To continue monitoring your pregnancy’s development and prepare for your baby’s arrival, remember to download the Kinedu app!

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