What It Is

Anemia is a condition in which the blood doesn't have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin or is low in volume. The red blood cells carry oxygen in the blood and deliver it to the rest of the body. Neonatal anemia is defined as anemia that occurs in an infant who is less than 28 days old. In premature infants, anemia is often present at birth; in healthy term infants, the anemia might not be apparent until a week or two after birth. Several different factors can cause or contribute to the development of neonatal anemia. These causes are categorized into four types: blood loss, rapid breakdown of the red blood cell, inadequate red blood cell production, pre-mature birth with the most common cause of anemia in neonates being blood loss.


The following are the causes of anemia in neonates:

  • Blood loss. Sometimes a baby loses blood during birth.
  • Rapid breakdown of red blood cells. Red blood cells may break down faster than normal. This can happen, for example, if the mother and baby do not have the same blood type.
  • Inadequate red blood cell production. Some babies may take longer to start making red blood cells. This can be caused by a lack of iron or other nutrients in the baby’s blood, an infection, or a problem with the blood-forming cells.
  • Premature birth. Premature babies have fewer red blood cells at birth and their red blood cells break down faster. They may also lose blood from frequent blood tests.
What are the symptoms?

Most babies don’t have any symptoms from normal newborn anemia. When a baby does have symptoms of anemia, they happen because the cells in the body are not getting enough oxygen from the blood. Symptoms may include:

  • Being sleepier or more tired than normal (Lethargy)
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Fast breathing rate
  • Abnormal heart rhythm or pulse
  • Increased requirement for supplemental oxygen
  • Difficulty sleeping,
  • Low blood pressure
  • Poor feeding In addition,
  • Enlarged spleen
How is it diagnosed?

A baby’s red blood cells can be counted with a simple blood test called Packed Cell Volume (PCV).

How is it treated?

Neonatal anemia treatment depends on cause and severity. A severe case of anemia might require a blood transfusion, and a mild case of transient anemia might not require treatment at all. When the cause of the neonatal anemia is a hereditary blood disorder, the underlying cause of the anemia also must be treated. In the case of preterm infants, anemia can be prevented, or the risks reduced, by limiting the drawing of blood for laboratory tests.

Facts about Neonatal Anaemia:

  • Anemia is normal for newborns and does not need to be treated unless it causes a problem for the baby or the blood count drops too low.
  • Iron is needed to make red blood cells. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you give your baby iron drops or iron-fortified formula.
  • Premature babies may need a transfusion of blood, which means the baby may be given red blood cells from someone else.
  • The smaller a premature baby is, the more likely it is that the baby will need 1 or more transfusions in the first 2 months of life.
How do I take care of my child?

Iron supplements or iron-fortified formula may cause constipation, which means that your baby may have hard bowel movements or fewer bowel movements. Therefore, do not give your baby iron unless it’s prescribed by the doctor and do not give more than prescribed.

Please contact the Paediatric department:

  • If you need to know how to take care of your child at home
  • On what symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them
  • If, in your judgment, you think your baby needs medical attention