Fetal blood sampling (FBS) is the collecting of fetal blood directly from the umbilical cord or fetus. The fetal blood is tested for signs of anemia and other blood problems. FBS is also known as cordocentesis or percutaneous umbilical cord blood sampling.
If you are Rh-sensitized and you are carrying an Rh-positive fetus, your immune system can attack the fetus's red blood cells. FBS is used to look at a fetus's red blood cell count and oxygen level, and it also looks for signs that your immune system is destroying fetal red blood cells.
FBS is performed in a hospital's outpatient surgery department. You will probably be given a sedative to reduce your and the fetus's movement during the FBS procedure.
You may be given more medicine during FBS, such as antibiotics to prevent infection or medicine to prevent preterm labor (tocolytic drugs).
If Doppler ultrasound and/or amniocentesis tests show moderate to severe anemia, FBS is then used. FBS is usually reserved for use after these tests because of its greater risks—up to 2% of pregnancies miscarry after FBS, and up to 50% lead to worsened Rh sensitization problems. (This happens after fetal blood mixes with the mother's blood during the blood sampling.)1
FBS is usually used when a Doppler ultrasound and/or a series of amniocentesis tests have first shown moderate to severe anemia. Fetal blood tests show the oxygen level, red blood cell condition, and red blood cell count. This helps your doctor plan the best treatment for you during your pregnancy.
If the effects of Rh sensitization are severe and the fetus has severe anemia, a fetal blood transfusion may be done immediately. Future transfusions may be scheduled to keep the fetus healthy until it can be delivered safely.
FBS can be done as early as the 17th week of pregnancy, in the middle of the second trimester.
Last Revised: October 20, 2011
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