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What is Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn?

  • Hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN), which is also called erythroblastosis fetalis, is a blood disorder that occurs when the blood types of a mother and baby are incompatible. HDN is relatively uncommon in the United States due to advances in early detection and treatment, limiting it to approximately 4,000 cases a year. It is more likely to happen during a mother's second or subsequent pregnancy.

    There are two causes of HDN: Rh incompatibility and ABO incompatibility. HDN due to Rh incompatibility occurs more frequently and is often called Rh disease. It is about three times more likely to occur in Caucasian babies than in African-American babies. HDN can be treated during pregnancy or after the baby is born.

    Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn (HDN) Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's

    Hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN) is treated through the Blood Disorders Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's. Hemolytic disease of the newborn was first identified in 1932 at Boston Children’s Hospital by Dr. Louis Diamond. He went on to develop the first successful treatment, a transfusion procedure, in the 1940s.

    Learn more

    Find in-depth information on hemolytic disease of the newborn on the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s website, including answers to:

    • What causes hemolytic disease of the newborn?
    • Can hemolytic disease of the newborn be prevented?
    • What are the symptoms of hemolytic disease of the newborn
    • How does a doctor know that it’s hemolytic disease of the newborn?
    • How is hemolytic disease of the newborn treated?