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Ghost White Baby Survives Fetal Maternal Hemorrhage

Fetal Maternal Hemorrhage An alert mother-to-be who noticed that her baby had stopped moving in the womb trusted her instinct and saved her child’s life from the effects of fetal maternal hemorrhage.

Jennifer Juarez of Fountain Valley, California was enjoying a normal pregnancy with an active baby who would kick up to ten times every half hour.

But at about the 37th week, Jennifer said the baby stopped moving. Sensing that something was wrong, she immediately alerted her midwife who sent her to the hospital to be checked out for possible birth trauma.

Fetal maternal hemorrhage drains 80% of baby’s blood

At the hospital, an ultrasound showed that the fetal heart rate was dropping. She was rushed into surgery and underwent an emergency Cesarean section. When the baby girl was delivered, her skin was a ghostly white—hence the description of a “ghost baby”– although her other responses were normal. The doctors pricked her skin to draw blood to get oxygen levels, but they were barely able to get a drop.

Fetal maternal hemorrhage occurs when the fetal red blood cells cross over from the fetus to the circulatory system of the mother. In the case of Jennifer and her baby, the FMH had drained 80% of the baby’s blood into the mother. According to the medical team, if Jennifer had waited even an hour or two more, the outcome would have been tragic.

The baby was immediately transfused, and all indications are that the baby, now named Hope, will have no residual problems from the event. Dr. Marielle Nguyen, the neonatologist at Kaiser Permanente, Irvine Medical Center, where Hope was born, said it was Jennifer’s maternal instinct to seek immediate help that saved Hope’s life.

An alert mother-to-be can avert tragic birth trauma

Fetal maternal hemorrhage occurs in as many as 98% of all pregnancies without any pre-delivery or fetal signs of distress because the amount of blood loss is minimal and the birth is normal. FMH can occur spontaneously (82% of all cases) or as a result of some abdominal trauma such as a fall or a motor vehicle accident. It has also been linked to certain medical procedures while pregnant including amniocentesis. In some cases, the hemorrhage is large enough to compromise the fetus resulting in the delivery of a severely anemic infant, or tragically, a stillborn child.

The key to a successful outcome for a significant fetal maternal hemorrhage is prompt recognition and intervention. Physicians will look to the diagnosis of FMH when the pregnant mother reports decreased fetal movement and the doctor sees fetal distress (anemia or irregular heart rate). If an infant is near-term, immediate Cesarean delivery is indicated, as in Jennifer’s case. If the fetus is early term, an in utero transfusion can be done.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, senior medical contributor for ABC News, agrees that a mother’s observations of her baby’s movements before birth are an “important indicator”. She says she has seen many cases of fetal maternal hemorrhage, perhaps not quite as severe as Baby Hope, but that newborns can absolutely survive with proper intervention.

Doctors will continue to watch Hope for any signs of developmental delay, but so far all signs indicate a completely healthy baby.