A baby may need a transfusion before birth because the number of red blood cells (the cells in the blood stream that are responsible for carrying oxygen to all the organs) is too low. This is called fetal anaemia. Severe anaemia can cause fetal heart failure and subsequent death.
What causes fetal anemia?
There are two groups of causes. The first group is haemolytic, which happens when the blood cells of the baby are destroyed, and production can also be decreased. The most common cause is Rhesus disease where antibodies in the mom’s blood cross over into the fetal circulation and cause destruction of the fetal blood cells. The other group is non-immune fetal anaemia, when there are no antibodies involved. One of such causes is fetal parvovirus B19 infection but it could also be due to bleeding or bone marrow problems, for instance.
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