Skip to main content
Explore URMC

URMC Logo

menu
URMC / Encyclopedia / Content

Hemoglobin (Fetal)

Does this test have other names?

Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used for the test, and other things. Your test results may not mean you have a problem. Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you. Hemoglobin analysis, hemoglobin electrophoresis

What is this test?

A fetal hemoglobin test is a blood test that checks the amount of fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) in the blood. Fetal hemoglobin is one of many types of hemoglobin. It is present in high levels in fetuses, but usually drops to trace amounts about six months after birth. If Hb F is at higher than normal levels, it can mean you have thalassemia, myeloid leukemia, or sickle cell anemia.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if your healthcare provider suspects that you have a blood disorder related to a high level of fetal hemoglobin in your blood. People with most of these disorders don't have symptoms but may have varying degrees of anemia. Symptoms related to anemia can include fatigue, pain, irregular heartbeat, and other heart problems.

The disorders are genetic, so your healthcare provider may also recommend this test if you have a family history of the disease.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

A variety of tests are used to diagnose blood disorders related to fetal hemoglobin. You may also have a blood smear, iron studies, or DNA analysis.

What do my test results mean?

Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used for the test, and other things. Your test results may not mean you have a problem. Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you. 

In healthy adults, Hb F is typically present only in trace amounts. If this amount is higher, you may have a blood disorder, such as thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, or another condition related to high levels of fetal hemoglobin. 

How is this test done?

The test is done with a blood sample. A needle is used to draw blood from a vein in your arm or hand. 

Does this test pose any risks?

Having a blood test with a needle carries some risks. These include bleeding, infection, bruising, and feeling lightheaded. When the needle pricks your arm or hand, you may feel a slight sting or pain. Afterward, the site may be sore. 

What might affect my test results?

If you are an adult or child who has higher than normal levels of fetal hemoglobin, you may have anemia, leukemia, or a sickle cell disorder. But, the fetal hemoglobin test alone does not tell which condition you might have. Some people with higher than normal levels of fetal hemoglobin don't have any symptoms. Further testing is needed to find out the specific nature of your blood disorder.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. Be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
  • Haldeman-Englert, Chad, MD