Anemia in newborns is a condition in which the number of red blood cells in the child’s body is lower than normal. This can happen for many reasons, including if the child is premature, the red blood cells break down very quickly, the body is not making enough red blood cells, or the child is losing too much blood. Many children do not require treatment for anemia.
What is anemia in newborns?
Infants with anemia have a lower normal red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body.
What causes anemia in newborns?
A newborn baby may develop anemia for several reasons. They can include:
The child’s body does not produce enough red blood cells. Most infants develop anemia in the first few months of life. This is known as physical anemia. The reason for anemia is that the child’s body is growing rapidly and it takes time for the red blood cells to build up.
The body also breaks down red blood cells quickly. This is a common problem when mother and baby blood types do not match. This is called Rh / ABO anomaly. These babies usually have jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia), which can cause their skin to become pale. In some children, anemia can also be caused by infection or genetic (inherited) disorders.
The child is losing too much blood. Blood loss in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is usually due to the need for frequent blood tests by healthcare providers. The health testing team needs these tests to help monitor your child’s condition. The extracted blood does not heal quickly, which causes anemia.
The child was born prematurely. Infants born prematurely (early) have fewer red blood cells. These red blood cells also have a shorter lifespan than full-term red blood cells. This is called premature anemia.
Other causes include internal bleeding and blood transfer between the infant and the mother while the child is still in the womb.
What are the symptoms of anemia in newborns?
Many children with anemia have any of the below symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:
- Pale skin.
- Feeling lethargy (loss of energy).
- Poor or fatigued during feeding.
- Fast heartbeat and relaxed fast breathing.
How is anemia diagnosed in newborns?
Anemia is diagnosed by your healthcare provider using a blood test. The tests used to diagnose anemia include the following measurements:
- Hemoglobin: It is a type of protein found on the surface of red blood cells, functions as an oxygen carrier.
- Hematocrit: A percentage of blood is made up of red blood cells.
- Reticulocytes: Percentage of immature red blood cells in the blood. This is indicative of how many new cells are being formed.
What are the treatments for anemia in newborns?
Your child’s healthcare provider will determine which treatment is best for your child. Many children with anemia do not require treatment. However, very premature or very sick infants may require a blood transfusion to increase the number of red blood cells in the body.
Other infants will be treated with medications to help their bodies produce more red blood cells. All infants with anemia should have their nutrition checked because eating the right foods will help your child to build red blood cells.
What are the risk factors for anemia in newborns?
There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of infants. Some of these risk factors may be beyond your control, while others can be easily reduced. The most common risk factors for anemia in children are:
- Live in a developing country
- Family history of anemia
- premature birth
- Having low birth weight (LBW) (less than 2.5 kg at birth)
- Early use of cow’s milk in the diet
- Diets low in iron, vitamins, and minerals
- Prolonged medical condition such as kidney disease
- Surgery or accident with loss of blood
- MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. USA National Library of Medicine. Bethesda. Maryland. USA; Anemia caused by low iron – infants and toddlers.
- Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland. Ohio; Anemia in Newborn
- Kett, Jennifer Corbelli. Anemia in Infancy. Pediatrics in Review April 2012,33(4) 186-187.