A milestone has been reached at Corniche Hospital in Abu Dhabi with medics marking the 100th blood transfusion completed on an unborn baby.
The procedure, one of the most common foetal therapy techniques, is required when a baby has a low number of healthy red blood cells, impairing ability to carry oxygen around the body.
Foetal anaemia usually arises during an infection, or if the mother has a different blood group and antibodies travel trough the placenta to attack the baby’s red blood cells.
The condition can be life threatening, so corrective treatment through transfusion is required as soon as possible after a diagnosis.
Nour Jabou, the mother of the 100th baby to receive a foetal transfusion at the hospital, expressed her relief after the successful procedure.
“We were terrified when we found out that our baby would need a blood transfusion while still in my womb,” she said.
It is seven years since doctors performed the first such procedure at the unit, on Marwa, who was expecting to deliver a healthy baby boy but experienced minor complications.
“I thank God every day for the medical care I received while I was pregnant with Ibrahim,” she said.
“Ibrahim is now living a healthy life. This would not have been possible without the team at Corniche Hospital.
“I remember being so scared as I had two miscarriages before Ibrahim, but the medical team assured me this procedure was for the best.
“When I look at Ibrahim now, I know I was right to put my trust in them.”
The procedure involves inserting a needle into the mother’s abdomen, guided by ultrasound, to provide blood for the foetus. It allows the baby to continue to grow before a safe delivery.
Foetal therapy can also be non-invasive, by providing medication for the mother that is then delivered to the unborn child through the placenta.
When that is not possible, doctors intervene with more complex procedures to give the baby the best chance of a healthy, safe delivery.
Haemoglobin is vital as it carries oxygen and red blood cells to regulate blood as it is carried around the body.
Any abnormalities can result in cardiac complications but signs are usually recognised in regular testing during pregnancy.
“Foetal blood transfusion is rare and requires a high level of precision and expertise,” said Dr Leanne Bricker, a consultant in foetal and maternal medicine at Corniche Hospital.
“As we mark 100 successful foetal transfusions, we celebrate a milestone that reinforces our expertise in treating unborn babies.”
The hospital’s advanced foetal medicine unit has been delivering health care since 2014, with a specialist team on hand to reduce complications and give babies the best chance of a good start in life.
It is one of few facilities in the UAE offering advanced foetal medicine, including complex procedures like foetoscopic laser to improve the health of identical twins who share their mother's placenta.
Doctors also perform foetal shunt procedures to aid unborn babies with defects that could impair organ function.
“We receive patients from across the country and the Gulf region,” Dr Bricker said.
“By collaborating with maternal, neonatal and paediatric experts, we provide comprehensive care that ensures the best outcomes for both mum and baby.”