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Erythroblastosis Fetalis


Erythroblastosis fetalis is also called hemolytic disease of the newborn. Babies get this condition before they are born. Erythroblastosis fetalis occurs when you and your baby have different blood types. When your baby's blood mixes with your blood during pregnancy, your immune system reacts by making antibodies against it. Antibodies are a part of the body's immune system that fight germs and substances that do not belong in the body. These antibodies can cross over to your baby through the placenta. They enter your baby's blood and attack your baby's red blood cells (RBCs), causing them 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 body.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.


is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give him medicine or liquids.


  • Immune globulin: Immune globulin given through an IV is also called IVIG. This medicine helps to keep your baby's RBCs from being damaged by your antibodies. This treatment may help prevent the need for an exchange transfusion.
  • Medicine for increased bile flow: Bilirubin is removed from your baby's body in bile, a digestive fluid made by his liver. The bile carries the bilirubin into his intestines where he gets rid of it in his bowel movements. He may be given medicine that increases the flow of bile into his intestines.


  • Blood tests: Your baby may need blood taken for tests. The blood may be taken from the umbilical cord when he is born. Your baby may have a catheter (small tube) placed in his umbilical cord stump. It may be used to draw blood and give him fluids. Your baby's blood may be checked for blood type, antibodies, RBC count, and bilirubin level. Your baby may need to have blood drawn more than once.


  • Phototherapy: This treatment 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 will be placed on his back to absorb the most light. Your baby may also lie on a flexible light pad, or his healthcare provider may wrap him in the light pad. Eye covers may be used to protect his eyes from the light.
  • Exchange transfusion: This is a procedure that removes the antibodies that are attacking his 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 once.


  • Your baby may have breathing or other problems if he was born earlier than expected. An IVIG may cause an infection. A reaction to IVIG may cause breathing problems, seizures, liver problems, or kidney problems. Exchange transfusions may cause an infection, bleeding, or heartbeat or breathing problems. They may also cause decreased blood flow to his intestines. These problems can be life-threatening.
  • Without treatment, your baby may have anemia that can lead to decreased oxygen to his brain, heart, and other organs. Your unborn baby may get hydrops fetalis, a condition that causes his body to swell with fluid. This may cause bleeding or heart failure. Bilirubin levels that get too high can cause hearing loss or brain damage, and may be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your baby.

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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.

Further information

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Learn more about Erythroblastosis Fetalis (Inpatient Care)

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