Hydrops Fetalis

What is Hydrops Fetalis?

Hydrops fetalis or Fetal Hydrops is a serious condition where the newborn has a life-threatening condition where there is severe swelling that is present. This swelling can also lead in the difficulty of breathing of the child due to abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body.

hydrops fetalis-external-appearance

Causes of Hydrops Fetalis

There are two types of Hydrops Fetalis:

a. Immune Hydrops Fetalis


  1. Is due to RH disease or Rhesus Incompatibility that happened between the mother and the baby. RH factor is a protein found in the red blood cells which most people do have.
  2. There are some instances that this protein is not present to other people that will increase the risk in the woman if they get pregnant because it leads the baby to have an anemia. RH disease is the one that destroy the red blood cells in the baby that lead in anemia formation.
  3. When the woman who has RH negative blood conceived a baby which is a RH positive blood, the blood of the mother will detect and fight the red blood cells present in the baby that will cause in anemia leading to the formation of hydrops that will make the baby organs unable to recompense to the anemia and due to the recompense the heart will start to fail resulting in the buildup of fluid in the body of the baby.

b. Non-Immune Hydrops Fetalis

Compare to the immune type of Hydrops Fetalis that the reason is RH incompatibility in this cause of Hydrops Fetalis is due to different disease that disrupts the capability of the body to control fluid. Some of the cause are:

  1. Iron deficiency Anemia – it is where the intake of iron of an individual is insufficient. The hemoglobin found in the blood that contains iron that carries oxygen to the body is not formed due to the insufficient absorption and intake.
  2. Heart Failure – it is where the heart has the inability to supply oxygenated blood flow in the body.
  3. Syphilis – is a type of sexually transmitted disease that can be transmitted to the fetus.
  4. Fetal Tachycardia – is a type of heart disease where the fetal heart beat reach 160 beats per minute.
  5. Cardiovascular Malformation – is a type of disease in the heart that there has an abnormal development in the blood vessels of the heart.
  6. Fetal Hemorrhage – it is where the fetal blood cells loss circulation with the maternal circulation.
  7. Feto-Fetal Transfusion Syndrome – is where the fetuses share the blood circulation that can be transferred unequally to them.
  8. Pulmonary Hypoplasia – it is where there is a part of the lungs of the newborn that is under develop.
  9. Turners Syndrome – is a type of abnormality in the chromosomes where a part of it is abnormal or absent that can cause swelling to the newborn.

Symptoms of Hydrops Fetalis

The signs and symptoms may vary according to the severity of the condition.

  1. Excessive Amniotic Fluid
  2. Liver Swelling due to inflammation and problem in circulation.
  3. Change in skin Color
  4. Breathing problems due to infection and inflammation.
  5. Bruise like marks on the skin due to altered or abnormal body circulation.
  6. Heart Failure due to fluid overload caused by Hydrops Fetalis.
  7. Severe anemia due to decrease number of red blood cells that circulate in the body
  8. Severe jaundice is a problem where there is a problem in the breakdown of the bilirubin in the blood.
  9. Total Body Swelling due to the disruption of the ability of the body to control fluid.




  1. Patient History that will help medical professionals to determine any medical conditions is the past that might lead in having the Hydrops Fetalis.
  2. Physical Examination if there is any medical condition that might affect in having the Hydrops Fetalis that affect the baby.
  3. Ultrasound is a procedure where it can also help in viewing internal organs and determine any abnormal tissues. In this disease, it can show the amount of amniotic fluid, abnormal placenta size, and fluids that leads the unborn child to swelling.
  4. Fetal blood sampling is a procedure done by medical professionals where they get a blood sample from the umbilical cord of the fetus. It can be used to identify and treat different problems like anemia.
  5. cordocentesis-for-fetal-anemia-detection
  6. Amniocentesis is a procedure done by a medical professional to get a fluid in the amniotic sac for test and exam that help to determine the cause of abnormality.


Treatment of Hydrops Fetalis

Treatment for this disease will depend on the underlying cause. The treatment is divided in two:

Treatment during Pregnancy

  1. The medical professional can give medication to the mother that will cause early delivery of the baby.
  2. If the condition of the baby inside the mother’s womb became worst, the medical professionals will do a cesarean procedure to prevent any problem that will make the problem worse.
  3. Doing a procedure called intrauterine fetal blood transfusion where the baby will be given the blood while still in the womb of the mother.

Treatment for the Newborn

  1. Once the baby is already born, the medical professionals will do blood transfusion specifically the red blood cell pack that is compatible to the newborn.
  2. The other procedure is the exchange transfusion where the procedure removed the substance that is destroying the red blood cells inside the newborn.
  3. A procedure using a needle to remove the accumulated fluid in the lungs and in the abdomen.
  4. Medications given by medical professionals to control any heart failure and medications for the kidneys to remove extra accumulated fluid inside the newborn
  5. Methods to help the newborn to breath to avoid hypoxia.

Prognosis of Hydrops Fetalis

This disease often causes and leads newborn death before or after delivery. For premature babies and those babies that are seriously ill have the highest risk.

Pictures of Hydrops fetalis





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