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Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test

Last updated Sept. 17, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

The Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test helps determine the levels of fetal hemoglobin in a newborn child or an infant. It is used to diagnose blood disorders in the newborn.


What are other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • Hb F Blood Test
  • Hemoglobin F Blood Test

What is Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test? (Background Information)

  • Fetal hemoglobin (Hb F or hemoglobin F) is a form of red blood cell protein hemoglobin produced by a fetus and infant, during the initial stages of its development
  • Hemoglobin is an oxygen-carrying protein that makes up the bulk of red blood cells. Fetal hemoglobin differs from adult hemoglobin in that it binds oxygen more tightly. This enables the fetus to receive adequate amounts of oxygen from the mother’s bloodstream
  • A fetus begins making fetal hemoglobin within 2 months. During development, hemoglobin F is the primary means by which the fetus receives oxygen through the mother’s bloodstream
  • Fetal hemoglobin levels should decrease significantly after the baby is born. By the time the newborn is 6 months old, hemoglobin F should comprise 5% of hemoglobin, and the rest should be conventional hemoglobin
  • The Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test helps determine the levels of fetal hemoglobin in a newborn child or an infant. It is used to diagnose blood disorders in the newborn

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test?

Following are the clinical indications for performing the Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test in a newborn:

  • Frequent infections
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Pale appearance
  • Abnormal development
  • Weakness 

How is the Specimen Collected for Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test:

Sample required: Blood

Process: Pricking of an infant’s heel.

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test.

What is the Significance of the Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test Result?

The interpretation of the value for the Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test depends on the age of the infant or newborn; a high value is indicated as follows:

  • Newborn; greater than 90%
  • 1-5 months old; greater than 70%
  • 6-12 months old; greater than 5%
  • 1 year and older; greater than 2%

A high value for the Fetal Hemoglobin Blood Test may indicate: 

  • Thalassemia
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Acquired aplastic anemia
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Leukemia
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Hemoglobin H disease

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 1, 2016
Last updated: Sept. 17, 2018