Rh incompatibility during pregnancy can sound like a scary thing, and gone untreated it can be dangerous to you and your baby. This post is intended to cover all the facts about Rh incompatibility and how to prevent any potential problems.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this post is not intended to replace any information given to you by your OB/GYN or Midwife. If you have concerns about Rh Incompatibility, please talk to a medical professional, as they will be able to give you individualized advice and treatment. This post is purely for educational purposes.
The following information was pulled from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) website. You can read more HERE.
If you prefer to listen instead of read, you can check out my podcast on this topic HERE. This week we have a special guest who talks about her experience with Rh incompatibility with all three of her children (hint, this person is very close to me).
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So, what is Rh Factor?
According to ACOG, “The Rh factor is a protein that can be found on the surface of red blood cells. If your blood cells have this protein, you are Rh positive. If your blood cells do not have this protein, you are Rh negative”. Whether you are Rh positive or negative is determined before birth and is inherited from one of your parents. If you know your blood type, you will know what your Rh factor is. A, B, AB, or O-positive blood has a positive Rh factor, A, B, AB, or O-negative blood means you have a negative Rh factor.
Rh incompatibility is ONLY an issue if you (the mother) are Rh negative and your baby is Rh positive. If you are Rh positive, you can pretty much just ignore the rest of this post – or help another pregnant momma out by sharing with them!
Only 15 percent of the population has Rh negative blood, so your odds are good.
How does it affect the pregnancy?
If you have a Rh incompatibility, issues can arise if your baby’s blood ends up getting into your bloodstream. This isn’t always common, but can happen if there is bleeding during the pregnancy, during special procedures like amniocentesis, while attempting to turn a breech baby, if there is any trauma to your belly, or even during labor and birth.
If there is a mix of blood, your body will know that it’s not the correct blood and will start to fight it off. The antibodies that mom makes can cross the placenta and will start to fight off your baby’s blood. If it goes untreated, it can lead to extremely serious complications and your baby can become very anemic. Without enough red blood cells, your baby will not have the oxygen it needs to survive.
How to treat it?
Now that I have explained how it works, I don’t want you to worry! There is a way to treat it! Your doctor or midwife will most likely test your blood during the first visit. Some offices will send you to a lab to get the blood work done later. They can then tell if you are Rh negative and if your body has started to produce antibodies yet.
If your body has not started to make antibodies, you will be given Rhlg (Rh immunoglobulin). This not only prevents you from making antibodies during this pregnancy, but can also protect all of your future babies. You will get a dose of Rhlg at around 28 weeks and again within 72 hours after birth. You may need an additional dose in certain conditions (like any trauma), but that is on a case-by-case basis.
If your body has already started to make antibodies you will have to talk with your doctor to determine what the next steps are based on your specific conditions. You may have to give your baby a blood transfusion before or after delivery, and in severe cases deliver early.
Although it sounds intense, you have nothing to worry about if you get the proper testing and treatment! This is just one of the many reasons it’s important to receive prenatal care early on, and to keep up on your visits. For women that cannot afford prenatal care, you can call (800) 311-BABY toll-free to get in contact with your local health department. They will be able to help you find free or reduced-cost prenatal care.
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