How The Rhesus Factor Affects Pregnancies
Having an Rh-negative blood type is not an illness and usually does not affect your health. However, it can affect your pregnancy.
Babies born to women with a negative blood type are at risk of anemia and more serious hemolytic diseases because of the Rhesus factor (Rh Factor). Find out if your hospital carries out the Rhesus factor screening.
What Is The Rhesus Factor And What Does The Test Do?
Rh factor is a type of protein on the surface of red blood cells. Your blood type has two parts: the blood-type group (A, B, O, AB) and the Rh factor. When this protein is present, your blood type is Rh-positive. And when the Rh protein is absent, your blood type is Rh-negative.
Normally, being Rh-negative has no risks. But during pregnancy, being Rh-negative can be a problem if your baby is Rh-positive. If your blood and your baby's blood mix, your body will start to make antibodies that can damage your baby's red blood cells. This could cause your baby to develop anaemia and other problems.
When Your Pregnancy Is At Risk Due To The Rhesus Factor
While the mother's and fetus's blood systems are separate, there are times when the blood from the fetus can enter into the mother's bloodstream. If this happens, the mother's immune system identifies the Rh-positive blood as an intruder and responds by making antibodies to destroy it. This response is Rh sensitization.
The antibodies in a Rh-sensitized mother can cross the placenta and attack the fetus's Rh-positive blood. These antibodies can break down and destroy the fetus's red blood cells (haemolysis), leading to anaemia. This condition is called haemolytic disease or haemolytic anemia.
In severe cases, the haemolytic disease can cause high levels of bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia), brain damage, and even death of the fetus resulting in a miscarriage, and still birth.
Sensitization can happen during a blood transfusion, miscarriage, abortion, ectopic pregnancy, and certain procedures like amniocentesis.
Yes. The goal of preventive treatment is to stop an Rh-negative woman from making Rh antibodies in the first place. You'll need to find out if you are Rh-negative early in pregnancy (or before pregnancy) and, if necessary, you will be given a medication to prevent antibodies from forming.
What Happens After The Rh-Positive Baby Is Born With Haemolytic Anaemia?
Some babies who have the haemolytic disease will have uncomplicated pregnancies and be born at a normal gestation. Other babies will have difficulty and may have to be induced earlier.
Doctors can give blood transfusions both before and after birth for these severely affected infants. Complications associated with Rh-positive babies born to Rh-negative women include anemia, brain damage, heart failure, jaundice, stillbirth, and death after birth.