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Hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin (HPFH) happens when your child’s red blood cells contain more hemoglobin F (fetal hemoglobin) than normal.
The gene for HPFH is passed down from parent to child just like hair color and eye color. Unlike sickle cell disease, HPFH cannot be identified with a blood test at birth. This is because newborn babies normally have a large amount of hemoglobin F.
Hemoglobin F usually decreases during the first few months of life. It is replaced with hemoglobin A. Children with HPFH continue to make high levels of hemoglobin F throughout their lives.
HPHF is a rare condition. About 1 in 1,000 African Americans have the gene for the HPFH trait. This means they are a carrier of the condition. About 1 in 12 African Americans have the sickle cell trait.
A few newborns inherit a gene for HPFH from one parent and a sickle cell gene from the other. This causes a condition called hemoglobin S/HPFH (HbS/HPFH). It looks like sickle cell anemia on laboratory testing at birth.
Special tests are usually needed at about 1 year of age to determine if a child has HbS/HPFH instead of other more serious types of sickle cell disease.
Having HPFH trait is harmless to the carrier. If your child has HbS/HPFH, they are unlikely to have any related health problems. They generally do not have the same issues that people with other types of sickle cell disease experience.
Reviewed: August 2022