No doubt, blood testing is a crucial practice, especially when it comes to understanding mothers’ and babies’ health. A DAT, for example, is an essential laboratory procedure; also known as a Coombs test, DATs identify if the body’s red blood cells (RBCs) possess destructive antibodies. The trouble is that some women—or their newborns—are DAT-positive, but they may not necessarily understand the results. Below, we break down what a positive DAT on cord blood means.
Hemolytic Disease of The Newborn (HDN)
Laboratories can perform a Direct Antiglobulin Test (DAT) on a neonate (or newborn) blood sample to detect HDN. This condition causes a baby’s red blood cells to quickly break down due to Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. To administer the test, medical professionals will collect blood directly from the baby or from the umbilical cord after delivery. Then, they send the sample to a lab for the DAT. Hemolytic disease results from blood group (ABO) incompatibility between a mother and her baby. While women are pregnant, they receive a blood test to determine their blood group. Knowing this information is important because the differences between the mother and newborn blood groups can result in antibody reactions.
Mothers should also recognize the impact of the Rhesus (Rh) antigen. Rh is a minor blood type system, and the Rhesus can be positive or negative. During pregnancy, blood travels from the placenta through maternal circulation, and if a Rh-negative mother carries a Rh-positive baby, her immune system will create antibodies against her baby’s red blood cells. So, mothers can take a DAT while pregnant and receive an RH immunoglobulin injection to prevent blood group reactions. Keep in mind, however that this injection may force the test to be a false positive.
Other Causes of Positive DATs and Things To Watch For
It’s possible that the results you receive are positive due to an autoimmune disorder or a medication. Ultimately, if you want to be certain about what a positive DAT on cord blood means, your healthcare provider will know best. In fact, your medical and administered drug history can aid in analyzing DAT results. If babies test positive on DATs, it is possible that they are at risk for conditions such as anemia, jaundice, or hyperbilirubinemia. Although many babies don’t develop these conditions, parents should still pay attention to signs after the positive test.
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