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 2 types of fetal blood transfusions:
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:
The goals of fetal blood transfusions are to:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems like:
Tests may be done to see if the fetus has severe anemia or fetal hydrops.
Body fluids may be examined. This can be done with:
Your abdomen may need to be viewed. This can be done with ultrasound.
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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 might 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:
A needle will be inserted 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, a final blood sample will be taken. This is to determine the fetus's blood level. It will show 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 fetus.
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 fetus or if the procedure is long, the uterus can 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 cesarean section.
You may be given:
Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
After your baby has been delivered, the baby will need to have follow-up blood tests. The doctor will closely monitor the baby for:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur:
Know the signs of early labor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Gibson BE, Todd A, et al. British Committee for Standards in Haematology Transfusion Task Force: Writing group. Transfusion guidelines for neonates and older children. Br J Haematol. 2004; 124: 433-453.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG practice bulletin No. 75: Management of isoimmunization in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. No. 75. 2006 Aug;108(2):457-464.
Rh factor. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/rhfactor.html. Updated August 2015. Accessed December 28, 2016.
van Kamp I, Klumper F, et al. Complications of intrauterine intravascular transfusion of fetal anemia due to maternal red-cell alloimmunization. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2005;192:171-177.
Last reviewed December 2017 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 5/20/2015