This procedure is done when a baby that is still in the womb suffers from severe anemia . Anemia is a lack of red blood cells. When the baby's blood count falls too low, a transfusion is needed. A transfusion means giving the baby red blood cells from a donor.
There are two types of fetal blood transfusions:
Fetal blood transfusions are done because the baby in the womb is suffering from severe anemia and could die without this transfusion. Anemia can be caused by:
The goals of fetal blood transfusions are to:
Possible complications for mother and fetus include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
To see if the fetus has severe anemia or fetal hydrops, the doctor may do these tests:
If the fetus has hydrops, the blood transfusion will be done right away.
Before the transfusion, you may be given:
Local anesthesia—numbs a small area of your abdomen
With IVT, the fetus will be paralyzed for a short time. This is to allow access to fetal blood vessels and to reduce injury to the fetus. During both IVT and IPT, the doctor will monitor the fetus with an ultrasound scan. The ultrasound will:
The doctor will insert a needle into your abdomen. Using ultrasound, the doctor will make sure the needle is placed correctly. The needle will go through your abdomen and be inserted into the umbilical cord (IUT) or into the fetal abdomen (IPT). Blood will be transfused to the fetus.
Before the needle is removed, the doctor will take a final blood sample. This is to determine the fetus' blood level (called hematocrit). The doctor will find out whether the transfusion was enough and when the next one should be.
The transfusions may need to be repeated every 2-4 weeks until your doctor decides that it is safe to deliver the baby.
A 10 ml IVT transfusion will take 1-2 minutes. Usually, between 30-200 ml is transfused during a single procedure.
You will feel pain and cramping where the doctor inserts the needle. If you are close to delivering the baby or if the procedure is long, the uterus will be sore.
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. You will be able to go home after the transfusion. If complications occur, you may need to have a C-section.
The doctor may give you:
Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Once your baby has finally delivered, the baby will need to have follow-up blood tests. The doctor will closely monitor the baby for:
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
March of Dimes
Save Babies Through Screening Foundation of Canada
Women's Health Matters
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Last reviewed November 2009 by Ganson Purcell,Jr., MD, FACOG, FACPE
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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