Persistent hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN) associated with passive acquisition of anti-D in maternal breast milk

Transfusion. 2017 Sep;57(9):2121-2124. doi: 10.1111/trf.14171. Epub 2017 Jun 5.


Background: Anti-D is a well-documented, significant cause of hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN), but its presence in breast milk is not routinely described. Theoretically, breast milk containing anti-D could have the potential to exacerbate HDFN if ingested by the affected infant.

Study design and methods: This is a case report of a 28-week premature male neonate with hydrops fetalis born to a 32-year-old woman (gravidity 3/parity 3) with anti-D and anti-G. The male neonate experienced prolonged HDFN due to passive acquisition of anti-D in the mother's breast milk.

Results: The mother's breast milk reacted strongly (4+) with the D-positive cells in the antibody screen test. Discontinuation of breast milk feeding and addition of total parenteral nutrition led to the cessation of clinically significant HDFN.

Conclusion: Although anti-D is a significant cause of HDFN through placental transfer of antibody, exacerbation of the condition through breast milk antibodies is rarely described. The current case highlights the possibility of this occurring. Discontinuation of maternal breast milk feedings should be considered in infants with HDFN who do not respond to standard treatment.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Erythroblastosis, Fetal / etiology*
  • Erythroblastosis, Fetal / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrops Fetalis
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Milk, Human / immunology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic
  • Rho(D) Immune Globulin / analysis
  • Rho(D) Immune Globulin / pharmacology*


  • RHO(D) antibody
  • Rho(D) Immune Globulin