childbirth vs rh factor

If you just found out you’re pregnant,
one of the first — and most important
— tests you should expect is a blood-
type test. This basic test determines
your blood type and Rh factor. Your
Rh factor may play a role in your
baby’s health, so it’s important to
know this information early in your
About the Rh Factor
People with different blood types
have proteins specific to that blood
type on the surfaces of their red blood
cells (RBCs). There are four blood
types — A, B, AB, and O.
Each of the four blood types is
additionally classified according to
the presence of another protein on the
surface of RBCs that indicates the Rh
factor. If you carry this protein, you
are Rh positive. If you don’t carry the
protein, you are Rh negative.
Most people — about 85% — are Rh
positive. But if a woman who is Rh
negative and a man who is Rh
positive conceive a baby, there is the
potential for a baby to have a health
problem. The baby growing inside the
Rh-negative mother may have Rh-
positive blood, inherited from the
father. Approximately half of the
children born to an Rh-negative
mother and Rh-positive father will be
Rh positive.
Rh incompatibility usually isn’t a
problem if it’s the mother’s first
pregnancy because, unless there’s
some sort of abnormality, the fetus’s
blood does not normally enter the
mother’s circulatory system during
the course of the pregnancy.
However, during delivery, the
mother’s and baby’s blood can
intermingle. If this happens, the
mother’s body recognizes the Rh
protein as a foreign substance and
can begin producing antibodies
(protein molecules in the immune
system that recognize, and later work
to destroy, foreign substances)
against the Rh proteins introduced
into her blood.
Other ways Rh-negative pregnant
women can be exposed to the Rh
protein that might cause antibody
production include blood transfusions
with Rh-positive blood, miscarriage,
and ectopic pregnancy.
Rh antibodies are harmless until the
mother’s second or later pregnancies.
If she is ever carrying another Rh-
positive child, her Rh antibodies will
recognize the Rh proteins on the
surface of the baby’s blood cells as
foreign, and pass into the baby’s
bloodstream and attack those cells.
This can lead to swelling and rupture
of the baby’s RBCs. A baby’s blood
count can get dangerously low when
this condition, known as hemolytic or
Rh disease of the newborn, occurs.
Preventing and Treating Rh Disease
of the Newborn
In generations past, Rh
incompatibility was a very serious
problem. Fortunately, significant
medical advances have been made to
help prevent complications from Rh
incompatibility and to treat any
newborn affected by Rh disease.
Today, when a woman with the
potential to develop Rh
incompatibility is pregnant, doctors
administer a series of two Rh
immune-globulin shots during her
first pregnancy. The first shot is given
around the 28th week of pregnancy
and the second within 72 hours after
giving birth. Rh immune-globulin
acts like a vaccine, preventing the
mother’s body from producing any
potentially dangerous Rh antibodies
that can cause serious complications
in the newborn or complicate any
future pregnancies.
A dose of Rh immune-globulin may
also be given if a woman has a
miscarriage, an amniocentesis, or
any bleeding during pregnancy.
If a doctor determines that a woman
has already developed Rh antibodies,
then the pregnancy will be closely
monitored to make sure that those
levels are not too high. In rare cases,
if the incompatibility is severe and
the baby is in danger, a series of
special blood transfusions (called
exchange transfusions) can be
performed either while the baby is
still in the uterus or after delivery.
Exchange transfusions replace the
baby’s blood with RBCs that are Rh-
negative. This procedure stabilizes
the baby’s level of red blood cells and
minimizes further damage caused by
circulating Rh antibodies already
present in the baby’s bloodstream.
Because of the success rate of the Rh
immune-globulin shots, exchange
transfusions are needed in fewer than
1% of Rh-incompatible pregnancies
in the United States today.
If Rh Disease Is Not Prevented
Rh incompatibility rarely causes
complications in a first pregnancy
and does not affect the health of the
mother. But Rh antibodies that
develop during subsequent
pregnancies can be potentially
dangerous to mother and child. Rh
disease can result in severe anemia,
jaundice, brain damage, and heart
failure in a newborn. In extreme
cases, it can cause the death of the
fetus because too many RBCs have
been destroyed.
If you’re not sure what your Rh factor
is and think you’re pregnant, it’s
important to start regular prenatal
care as soon as possible — including
blood-type testing. With early
detection and treatment of Rh
incompatibility, you can focus on
more important things — like
welcoming a new, healthy baby into
your household.

Author: TheGoldendiamond

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