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Erythroblastosis Fetalis


Erythroblastosis fetalis

is a condition that causes your unborn baby's red blood cells (RBCs) to break down. This may cause severe anemia (low RBC count). Anemia makes it difficult for the RBCs in your baby's blood to carry enough oxygen to his or her body. This condition is also called hemolytic disease of the newborn. Hemolysis means breaking down RBCs.

Common signs and symptoms:

  • Before your baby is born:
    • Fast heart rate
    • Larger than normal organs, such as the heart, liver, or spleen
    • Swelling of your baby's body
  • After your baby is born:
    • Pale skin caused by anemia
    • Jaundice (yellowing of your baby's skin or the whites of his or her eyes)
    • Small red or brown spots, or purple patches on your baby's skin
    • Swelling of your baby's body
    • Trouble breathing

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your baby is having a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your baby has jaundice that does not go away or gets worse.
  • Your baby has shortness of breath.
  • Your baby is very irritable, fussy, and has a high-pitched cry.
  • Your baby looks very tired or weak, or sleeps more than usual.

Call your baby's doctor if:

  • Your baby develops a fever.
  • Your baby develops jaundice.
  • Your baby is not feeding well or is urinating less than before.
  • You have breastfeeding problems.
  • By his or her fourth day of life, your breastfeeding baby has either of the following:
    • Fewer than 4 to 6 wet diapers in a period of 24 hours.
    • Fewer than 3 to 4 bowel movements in a period of 24 hours.
  • You have questions or concerns about your baby's condition or care.


  • Before your baby is born:
    • Blood transfusions may be given to your baby through the umbilical cord.
    • Preterm delivery means your baby may need to be born earlier than expected.
  • After your baby is born:
    • Phototherapy uses light to turn bilirubin into a form that your newborn's body can remove. One or more lights will be placed above your baby. He or she will be placed on his or her back to absorb the most light. Your baby may also lie on a flexible light pad. His or her healthcare provider may wrap him or her in the light pad. Eye covers are used to protect your baby's eyes from the light.
    • Immune globulin is medicine to help keep your baby's RBCs from being damaged by your antibodies. This treatment may help prevent the need for an exchange transfusion.
    • An exchange transfusion is a procedure that removes the antibodies that are attacking RBCs and some of the bilirubin. Small portions of your baby's blood will be removed and replaced with donor blood. This procedure may need to be done more than 1 time.

Blood tests:

Your baby's bilirubin and RBC levels may need to be checked after he or she leaves the hospital. You may need to bring your baby to your pediatrician's office or a lab to have this done. Your baby's bilirubin level may reach a very high level after he or she leaves the hospital. If that happens, your pediatrician will have you take your baby back to the hospital for treatment.

Follow up with your baby's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Erythroblastosis Fetalis (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.