Anemia in Newborns

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

The human body is fuelled by the blood running through its circulatory system. Red blood cells (RBCs or erythrocytes) are an important component of blood responsible for the red colour associated with blood. RBCs also contain hemoglobin, which is responsible for the delivery of oxygen to every cell in the human body.

What is Anemia?

Under normal conditions, a hemoglobin count of 13.5 g/dl (gram per decilitre of blood) is ideal for men and 12 g/dl is the value ideal for women. During pregnancy the value may vary between 11-12 g/dl. A newborn has a slightly higher hemoglobin count of 14-24 g/dl. Children tend to have a count of about 11-16 g/dl.

When a person suffers from anemia, there is a hemoglobin deficiency in the body. The number of red blood cells decreases, leading to a low hemoglobin count. The person usually suffers from a deficiency of iron leading to this condition. If the count drops below 5 g/dl it is a critical value and there can be risk of heart failure.

What Causes Anemia in Newborns?

Newborns are said to be anemic if the central venous hemoglobin value is below 13 g/dl or the capillary hemoglobin is below 14.5 g/dl. They are usually born with an average hemoglobin count of 17 g/dl. The levels continue to decline after birth till the third week of life when they hit 11 g/dl. This process is a natural consequence of going from an oxygen deficit environment in the womb to an oxygen rich environment outside. Anemia in newborns results from three reasons:

  1. Loss of RBCs is the most common cause (Hemorrhagic Anemia)
  2. Increased destruction of RBCs (Hemolytic Anemia)
  3. Underproduction of RBCs (Hypoplastic Anemia)

Symptoms to Watch For in Preterm Babies

Anemia is common in babies born preterm. Mildly anemic infants may not display any signs of having the condition. In case of more severe anemia some of these symptoms may be indicative of the disorder.

  • These infants will usually have a pale skin pallor.
  • They are easy to tire and suffer from shortness of breath.
  • They may be irritable all the time.
  • They are fussy feeders who ingest less.
  • They have a reduced attention span and may be less alert.
  • They may develop a sore tongue.
  • Nails may be brittle.
  • A blue tinge may be found in the whites of the eyes.

Proper testing of the baby will be required to confirm that the infant actually has anemia. Just because the baby displays a couple of the symptoms mentioned does not means that it has developed this condition.

Tests to Diagnose Anemia in Newborns

There are a number of blood tests to check for anemia once the infant has been physically examined and found to show symptoms of the condition. These include hematocrit, serum ferritin, serum iron and total iron binding capacity (TIBC). Essentially the haemoglobin count is considered the first tool of diagnosis, but the health care provider will also look at the RBC indices, and the reticulocyte count.

If the anemia is being caused by hemorrhage or continuous loss of blood, the Kleihauer-Betke test may be performed on maternal blood to check for fetomaternal hemorrhage. A CXR may be performed for pulmonary hemorrhage. Ultrasound may be done to check for other internal bleeding possibilities. Blood smear tests may also be performed to diagnose the condition adequately.

Treatment Options for Newborns with Anemia

In case the anemia is severe, there may be a need for replacement transfusion for the infant to meet the ongoing deficit. This is critical so that the oxygen carrying capacity of the RBCs is maintained for the infant to survive. The blood transfusions may be continued till the infant is able to produce adequate red blood cells and push up the haemoglobin count.

For mild anemia, nutritional supplementation of iron, folate and Vitamin E may be prescribed for a period of time. Healthy foods that are rich in iron, such as apricots, beans, eggs, liver, oatmeal, prune juice, raisins, spinach, kale and lentils should be fed to the baby along with the supplements. It is not advisable to start supplements without informing the health care practitioner monitoring the baby’s health. it should also be known that not all supplements may suit the infant equally.

Prognosis after Treatment

Once diagnosed accurately, anemia is easily curable. In most cases with the right treatment, the newborn will have a normal blood count of hemoglobin within a couple of months. It is important to keep track of the reason why anemia was caused. Iron deficiency may plague the child for a while and parents must ensure that dietary supplements are continued until deemed no longer necessary by the health care provider.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Cashmere Lashkari

Written by

Cashmere Lashkari

Cashmere graduated from Nowrosjee Wadia College, Pune with distinction in English Honours with Psychology. She went on to gain two post graduations in Public Relations and Human Resource Training and Development. She has worked as a content writer for nearly two decades. Occasionally she conducts workshops for students and adults on persona enhancement, stress management, and law of attraction.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Lashkari, Cashmere. (2019, February 26). Anemia in Newborns. News-Medical. Retrieved on April 24, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Lashkari, Cashmere. "Anemia in Newborns". News-Medical. 24 April 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Lashkari, Cashmere. "Anemia in Newborns". News-Medical. (accessed April 24, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Lashkari, Cashmere. 2019. Anemia in Newborns. News-Medical, viewed 24 April 2024,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
EGCG effect: Study suggests green tea compound may ease inflammatory iron deficiency