Hydrops fetalis—or hydrops—is a condition in which large amounts of fluid build up in a baby’s tissues and organs, causing extensive swelling (edema). Hydrops fetalis is sometimes used as a synonym for homozygous alpha thalassemia, a lethal or life-threatening disease of mid and late fetal development caused by the inability to make red blood cells. The condition, which can be diagnosed before or after birth, is relatively rare in the United States due to advances in the prevention of hemolytic diseases of the unborn. It can, however, be life-threatening. Nearly half of the babies born with hydrops do not survive.
There are two types of hydrops:
Continue reading to learn more about hydrops fetalis or visit the Thalassemia Program homepage to learn about our expertise and treatment approach for this condition.
Symptoms of hydrops can occur during pregnancy or after birth. Symptoms during pregnancy include:
Symptoms after birth include:
Hydrops fetalis can be diagnosed during pregnancy or after delivery through an ultrasound, fetal blood sampling and amniocentesis.