Hydrops is severe swelling in the body tissues of a fetus or infant.
Hydrops is severe swelling in the body tissues of a fetus (unborn child) or infant (birth to 1 year*). The condition develops when too much fluid moves from the baby’s bloodstream into the tissues. Hydrops can cause a fetus or baby’s organs to shut down, and it can be fatal.
The most common places for the fluid to build up is in tissues around the lungs, heart, or abdomen (ascites), and under the skin (edema).
There are two types of hydrops:
- Immune — If mother and baby do not have the same blood type, the mother’s immune system may begin to break down the red blood cells of the fetus during pregnancy, causing swelling.
- Non immune — If a fetus or newborn has a disease that makes it hard for their body to manage fluids, hydrops can develop. Examples of diseases that may cause hydrops include severe anemia, congenital infections, heart conditions, lung conditions, chromosome defects and liver disease.
Symptoms of hydrops can be found during pregnancy or after birth.
Symptoms during pregnancy
- Enlarged heart, liver or spleen (will be seen on ultrasound)
- Fluid buildup around heart, lungs or abdomen (will be seen on ultrasound)
- Large amounts of amniotic fluid
- Thick placenta
Symptoms immediately after birth
- Difficulty breathing
- Enlarged liver and spleen
- Pale skin color
- Swelling of the abdomen or entire body
- Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
*Age of infants as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).