Thrombocytopenia means that a newborn baby has too few platelets in his or her blood. Platelets are blood cells that help the blood clot. They are made in the bone marrow.
Thrombocytopenia may be caused when then baby doesn't make enough platelets or when the platelets break down too soon.
Making too few platelets may be caused by problems with a mother's blood pressure such as pre-eclampsia. Less commonly it may be caused by infections in the baby's bone marrow while in the womb. Examples are rubella or syphilis. Some medicines taken by the mother or given to the baby can also affect the bone marrow and lower the number of platelets made. Some rare genetic disorders also lower the number of platelets made.
The most common reason for thrombocytopenia is when a mother’s immune system makes antibodies against the baby’s platelets. This causes the platelets to break down too soon. Some babies who are very sick will also break down platelets too soon because of the illness.
Thrombocytopenia is rare in babies. But a baby is more likely to have problems with it if he or she:
Symptoms occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:
The symptoms of thrombocytopenia can look like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your baby's healthcare provider will check your baby’s health history. He or she will do a physical exam. Blood tests can show lower platelet counts.
Treatment usually depends on the cause of the thrombocytopenia. Most cases of thrombocytopenia are not serious enough to need treatment. But your child may need a platelet blood transfusion.
Babies who don’t have enough platelets may have bleeding into the tissues. Bruising of the skin is common. With bleeding, the red blood cells break down. This makes bilirubin. Bilirubin can build up in the blood and cause a yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
Too much bleeding can be dangerous and can affect the brain and other body systems.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: