RH Factor & Pregnancy: What Every Couple Should Know

By Feyi Kemi

Are you Rh Negative or Positive? To avoid complications during pregnancy and foster baby’s good health, it’s important for every expecting mum (sometimes dads too) to have a blood test to determine their blood type and if they have the Rhesus factor – an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells. This should be done in the early stage of pregnancy.

Find out why this is necessary and other important details you should know…

Rh Factor & Why You Should Get Tested

As you already know, blood type varies from one individual to the other. These blood types are further classified based on the presence or absence of an inherited type of protein on the surface of the red blood cells. If you have the protein, you’re Rh-positive (for instance O+, A+, AB+, B+), and if you don’t, you’re among the few (about 15 percent) who are Rh-negative (AB-, O-, B-, A-). In that case, you will require some treatment during pregnancy to protect you and your baby.

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This is because when a woman who is Rh-negative and a man who is Rh-positive make a baby, there is likelihood the baby may inherit the Rh protein from his dad, and be Rh-positive. This leads to Rh incompatibility whereby the mother’s immune system may view the developing foetus and its Rh-positive blood cells as an ‘invader’ and create lots of antibodies to attack its red blood cells, creating complications including severe anemia, jaundice, brain damage, heart failure and death in newborns.

Rh incompatibility is not common during a first pregnancy, except some complications occur in the course of pregnancy and the foetus’s blood passes into the mother’s bloodstream. However, during delivery, an Rh-negative mum’s blood may come in contact with her Rh-positive baby’s, making her Rh sensitized – her body creates antibodies that will recognize Rh proteins and attack her baby’s red blood cells if she carries Rh-positive babies in subsequent pregnancies.

Prevention/Treatment

With early detection during the first pregnancy, a series of Rh immune-globulin shots, which prevents the mother’s body from producing dangerous Rh antibodies that can cause serious complications in the newborn or complication during subsequent pregnancies, is given.

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The first shot is usually given around the 28th week of pregnancy, another at 34 weeks and the third within 72 hours after giving birth. Additional doses may be given if deemed necessary.

A dose may also be given if a woman has a miscarriage, an amniocentesis, or any bleeding during pregnancy.

Close monitoring throughout pregnancy is also usually given to women who are already Rh sensitized or have had previous complications owing to Rh incompatibility.

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Where incompatibility is severe and baby is in danger, a series of special blood transfusions called exchange transfusions may be done before the baby is born (intrauterine fetal transfusions) or after delivery to replace the baby’s blood with one containing Rh-negative blood cells. This however only happens in rare cases as Rh immune-globulin shots are effective in most cases.

8 Discussions on
“RH Factor & Pregnancy: What Every Couple Should Know”
  • I always wanted a detailed information about this rhesus ish since I first heard of it and I have never had the time to do a full research on it. And here I am on MIM reading a straight forward, easy to digest information about Rhesus. Thanks MIM for always educating me. God bless you.

  • I’ve always known the shot is given within 72 hours after delivery. I didn’t know it’s given during pregnancy. This is very informative. Thanks

  • Hello, this is very educating. I a question that has been bothering me. I really hope that you reply. I did not get the hormone shot after 2 miscarriages /abortion, because I did not know about it. however after the 3 miscarriage, I got the shot and am afraid my body is deeply sensitized. Can you advise me?

  • Mma I LL advise you go the hospital and enquire cos I heard one may never have babies if the miscarried baby had a different blood group from the RH mum and the drug it taken within 72 hours…. My sister is one so I know!

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