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Supporting families coping with NAIT

02 June 2016
Volume 24 · Issue 5


After her daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder of the blood, Heidi Stone became committed to raising awareness of the condition and supporting other families with it.

When my daughter was born, she was diagnosed with a rare genetic blood disorder, neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (NAIT)—the effect of which was the catalyst for me to become a midwife. Although this disease is now well-documented, with many studies being undertaken around the world, while I was a student I was saddened that many of the midwives and paediatricians I spoke to had never heard of NAIT.

The disease, also known as FNAIT (fetal neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia), occurs in 1/1000 births (Curtis, 2015). It is the blood platelet equivalent of the red blood cell disease haemolytic disease of the fetus or newborn (HDFN), more commonly known as rhesus disease. Instead of the mother's development of red cell antibodies destroying her baby's red blood cells, NAIT is characterised by the destruction of platelets in the fetus or newborn in response to certain platelet antigens that the fetus has inherited paternally but which are not present in the mother. The mother's body sees these antigens as ‘foreign’ and may respond by producing antibodies against them. Antibodies, an important part of the body's immune system, may cross the placenta, enter the unborn baby's bloodstream and destroy its platelets.

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