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Rh (rhesus) factor
incompatibility is a condition that occurs when a mother is Rh negative (Rh-)
and her baby is Rh positive (Rh+). Rh factor is a protein found on red blood
You are Rh+ if you have this
protein and Rh- if you do not have it. Rh incompatibility usually has little
effect on your first pregnancy, but can cause problems with future pregnancies.
What causes Rh factor
If you are Rh- and have an Rh+
baby, your body may make antibodies (substances that protect the body from
outside invaders) against the Rh protein. When you get pregnant again with an
Rh+ baby, these antibodies will become active. An abnormal pregnancy, abortion,
miscarriage, or abdominal injury can also make these antibodies active. These antibodies
can cause serious problems in an unborn baby.
What are the
signs and symptoms of Rh factor incompatibility?
There are no signs and symptoms
that will tell you if you have Rh factor incompatibility.
Your baby may have the following
signs and symptoms when he is born:
skin and mucous membranes (lining of the cheeks and gums)
(yellowing of the skin and eyes)
in his face, arms, and legs
How is Rh factor
If you are Rh-, healthcare
providers need to know if you have been pregnant before or if you have received a blood
The following tests may be done:
Blood tests: These check to
see if you are Rh- or Rh+. The father's blood type
and Rh factor may also be tested.
test may be done to check your baby's blood type and risk of anemia. Healthcare
providers take a sample of your baby's blood from the umbilical cord. With an
ultrasound to guide them, a needle is put through your skin, into your uterus,
and into the umbilical cord.
Ultrasound: This test uses
sound waves to show pictures of your baby inside
your uterus. Healthcare providers
can learn the age of your baby and see how
fast he is growing. The movement,
heart rate, and other organs of your baby can
be seen. Your placenta (tissue in
the womb connecting the mother and baby) and amniotic fluid may be checked. A
Doppler ultrasound may be used in place of an amniocentesis to see the blood
flow in your baby's body. Healthcare providers may use this test to check if
your baby has anemia.
How are Rh
factor incompatibility problems treated?
You will not need treatment for
Rh incompatibility problems, but your baby might.
He may need to be delivered
early. He may also need any of the following:
Phototherapy: This is done to
help reduce jaundice.
transfusions may be given through the umbilical cord and after birth to treat
is an injection of antibodies to help reduce the
destruction of red blood cells.
What are the
risks of Rh factor incompatibility?
If Rh immune globulin shots are
not given, Rh antibodies may form and put your baby or
next pregnancy at risk. Your baby
may have severe anemia and need blood transfusions.
This may cause bleeding, allergic
reactions, or infections. Even with treatment, your baby
may have brain damage. Rh
incompatibility may be life-threatening to your baby.
How can Rh
factor incompatibility be prevented?
Immune globulin (RhIg) shots may
help reduce your risk. These shots prevent your body from making Rh antibodies.
RhIg shots are usually given in the 28th week of pregnancy and within 72 hours
after giving birth. You may need another shot if you have not given birth
within 12 weeks after the first shot. RhIg shots may also be given after an
abortion, miscarriage, or abdominal trauma.
Shots are also given after any
procedure that may cause your baby's blood to leak into your bloodstream. These
procedures may include amniocentesis, fetal blood sampling, or a change in the
baby's position in the womb before birth.
When should I
contact my healthcare provider?
You have a fever.
You have severe abdominal pain.
You have questions or concerns
about your condition or care.
When should I
seek immediate care?
You feel your baby is moving less
or is not moving at all.
You have trauma, especially to
your abdomen, even if you do not feel like you
You have heavy vaginal bleeding.
You have the right to help plan
your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss
treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want
to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
The above information is an
educational aid only. It is not intended as medical
advice for individual conditions
or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or
pharmacist before following any
medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.