Hydrops fetalis is severe swelling (edema) in an unborn baby or a newborn baby. It is a life-threatening problem. There are 2 types: immune and nonimmune.
This type of hydrops is not very common. It may develop because of Rh disease in the mother. If you are Rh negative and have an Rh positive baby, your immune system attacks your unborn baby’s red blood cells. This causes anemia. Hydrops can occur if the developing baby's organs can't overcome the anemia. The heart starts to fail. Large amounts of fluid build up in the baby's tissues and organs. This type of hydrops is not common today because Rh negative women are usually treated with Rh immunoglobulin to prevent this problem.
This is the more common type of hydrops. This type includes all other diseases or complications that may interfere with how your baby manages fluid. Some of the diseases or conditions that can cause nonimmune hydrops include:
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. Below are the most common symptoms of hydrops.
During pregnancy, symptoms may include:
After birth, symptoms may include:
The symptoms of hydrops may look like other health conditions. It is almost always diagnosed during pregnancy or immediately at birth. Make sure your baby sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Before birth your baby may need these tests:
Treatment of hydrops depends on the cause. During pregnancy, hydrops may be treatable only in certain cases. You may need to deliver your baby early. In a newborn baby, treatment may include:
The severe swelling that occurs with hydrops can overwhelm the baby's organ systems. About 50% of unborn babies with hydrops don’t survive. Risks for other problems are also high for babies born with hydrops. Survival often depends on the cause and treatment.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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