Hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN): ABO incompatibility

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Learn about hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn and ABO incompatibility and how it can affect your fetus and/or newborn, as well as how it is treated.

Key points

  • Hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN) causes a fetus or newborn baby’s red blood cells to break down more quickly than they should. This occurs due to differences in blood type between mother and baby.
  • In ABO incompatibility, the breakdown of red blood cells causes an increase in substance called bilirubin, which causes jaundice, often seen as a yellow discolouration of the skin.
  • Jaundice develops in the days after the baby is born, and problems before birth are exceptionally rare from ABO incompatibility.
  • The severity of HDFN from ABO incompatibility is variable – ranging from very mild and not needing any treatment, to more significant requiring frequent blood tests, monitoring and some treatments in the first few weeks of life.
  • The majority of babies with this condition will have no long-term problems.
Last updated: March 17th 2023