In this section:
What you need to know now
“Once I learnt more about haemophilia I became more comfortable.”
What is haemophilia?
Haemophilia is a rare bleeding disorder in which there are low levels of one of the essential clotting factors, factor VIII (8) or factor IX (9). These factors are components (proteins) that help blood to clot.
There are two types of haemophilia, both with the same symptoms:
- Haemophilia A – factor VIII (8) deficiency
- Haemophilia B – factor IX (9) deficiency
When factor levels are significantly low, bleeding problems can occur. Your child may have more bruising and bigger bruises, often lumpy, and may have bleeding (e.g. from the mouth) that stops and restarts. They may also experience internal bleeding into joints and muscles (commonly referred to as ‘bleeds’).
How serious is it?
While haemophilia is not curable at present, it is most certainly treatable. Your child will have a normal life expectancy and be able to do most things that a child without haemophilia enjoys.
Your HTC team will guide you and your child throughout life to manage factor levels and discuss their development and their involvement in sports and activities as they grow.
Some bleeds can be very serious – even life threatening – if not treated appropriately. Bleeds to the head, throat and stomach should be treated as emergencies. If you suspect your child has a head, throat or stomach bleed, take your child to hospital for immediate medical attention and contact your HTC.
How did my child get haemophilia?
Haemophilia is caused by a change (mutation) in the genes. Once a gene has altered, the change may be passed on to future generations. Often people with haemophilia have a family member who also has haemophilia. However, around a third of children born with haemophilia have no previous family history of the condition.
Did I do something wrong during pregnancy to cause this?
No, certainly not. Haemophilia is caused by changes in the genes that are beyond our control. There is nothing you or your partner could have done to prevent your child having haemophilia.
What does mild, moderate and severe haemophilia mean?
Haemophilia can be mild, moderate or severe. The level of severity is directly related to the percentage of factor VIII (8) or IX (9) in the blood.
Knowing the factor levels helps to determine the appropriate treatment and can give you a guide as to what you can expect. In general, people with severe haemophilia can expect more frequent bleeds.
Each person’s experience with haemophilia is unique. Over time, you will become familiar with your child’s bleeding patterns and be able to predict what is likely to cause a bleed. As they get older, you can ask them about their symptoms.
Is haemophilia contagious?
No. People do NOT get haemophilia from living with or being near a person with haemophilia. It is only passed on through genetics.
Will it go away or change?
Haemophilia is a lifelong condition. However, it can be managed effectively.
The severity of haemophilia (mild, moderate or severe) does not change over a lifetime.
Within a family, males with haemophilia will nearly always have the same level of severity.
However, the factor level for females who ‘carry the gene’ is unpredictable and the level of severity can vary between family members. For example, a man with severe haemophilia who passes it on to all his daughters may have one daughter with mild haemophilia and another daughter who has inherited the gene but has normal factor levels and no bleeding problems.
Will my other children have haemophilia?
If you are a woman, you may carry the altered gene that causes haemophilia. In this case, some of your children may also inherit haemophilia or some of your daughters may carry the gene.
A man with haemophilia will pass the gene on to all his daughters, but not his sons.
There are tests available to determine whether you or your partner have the gene for haemophilia. Your HTC can provide you with more information and advice about these tests. You can also be referred to a genetic counsellor if required.
What is the treatment?
Treatment and care for children with haemophilia involves a team of specialist health professionals to cover their range of care needs. This is known as ‘comprehensive care’.
Key aspects of your child’s treatment and care are diagnostic services (such as blood tests, scans and X-rays), factor replacement therapy, physiotherapy and rehabilitation, and psychosocial support.
Each child has different needs and their care and treatment will reflect what is best for them as an individual. Your HTC or health professional will advise on the best treatment for your child.
What is factor replacement therapy?
Factor replacement therapy involves injecting the missing clotting factor into a vein or ‘port’ (a temporary device inserted under the skin to access the vein). Depending on how severe your child’s haemophilia is, treatment may be required up to a few times per week to prevent bleeds from occurring (this is called ‘prophylaxis’) or whenever they have a bleeding episode (this is called ‘on demand’). Your haematologist or Haemophilia Treatment Centre will discuss the appropriate treatment for your child with you.
How will I know when my child has a bleed?
Your HTC or treating health professional will provide you with individual medical advice on how to recognise and manage a bleed.