Fetal Blood Transfusion

This procedure is done when a fetus suffers from severe anemia. Anemia is a lack of red blood cells. A transfusion means giving the fetus red blood cells from a donor. There are two types of fetal blood transfusions:

  • Call Your Doctor

    Call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

    • Signs of infection, including fever or chills
    • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the needle insertion site
    • You are not feeling your baby moving normally

    Know the signs of early labor:

    • Water breaks
    • Uterine contractions
    • Back pain that comes and goes
    • Vaginal bleeding

    If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

  • Definition


    This procedure is done when a fetus suffers from severe
    anemia. Anemia is
    a lack of red blood cells. A transfusion means giving the fetus red blood cells from a donor.

    There are two types of fetal blood transfusions:

    • Intravascular transfusion (IVT)—done through the mother’s abdomen into the fetus’s umbilical cord
    • Intraperitoneal transfusion (IPT)—done through the mother’s abdomen and uterus into the fetus’s abdomen; usually only done if IVT is impossible to do because of the position of the fetus and the umbilical cord

  • What to Expect

  • Reasons for Procedure

    A transfusion is needed when the fetus's blood count falls too low. Severe anemia in a fetus can cause death. Anemia can be caused by:

    • Rh incompatibility—the mother and fetus have a different type of blood, and mother’s antibodies to fetal blood cells destroy fetal blood cells
    • Parvovirus B19 infection—a viral infection in the mother
    • Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome—can occur in twin pregnancies where development is in one chorionic sac

    The goals of fetal blood transfusions are
    to:

    • Prevent or treat fetal hydrops before delivery—Hydrops is caused by severe anemia in the fetus, which develops into heart failure. This leads to fluid collecting in the skin, lungs, abdomen, or around the heart.
    • Continue the pregnancy so the fetus can be born close to term

  • Possible Complications

    Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems like:


    • Need for
      cesarean section
      because of fetal distress after the procedure
    • Premature rupture of membranes
      and/or premature labor
    • Abdominal bruising or soreness
    • Bleeding, cramping, or leaking fluid from vagina
    • Infection
    • Injury to the fetus
    • Giving too much blood
    • Fetal bleeding
    • A rare condition in which the donor’s blood cells attack the fetus's blood cells