Human blood is classified into four major groups – A, B, AB, and O. Each of these blood groups contains Rhesus factor (Rh), a type of antigen found on the surface of the red blood cells. Rh is categorized into two, Rh positive and Rh negative. Where Rh antigens are present in the blood, a person is said to be Rh positive. However, where Rh antigens are absent, a person is said to be Rh negative. The most popular blood groups worldwide are A+ or O+. Taking a blood test is the easiest way of knowing your blood group. About 85% of the population is Rh positive while about 15% don’t have Rh factor thus are Rh negative.
The Rh factor is hereditary. It is inherited from parents, for instance, is a father is Rh positive and a mother is negative, their child can inherit either though Rh positive genes tend to take over because they are stronger than Rh-negative genes. As such, the child has a higher chance of being Rh positive. However, if both parents happen to be Rh negative, the child inherits the Rh negative factor.
Pregnancy problems associated with Rh factor
Most of the problems that are associated with Rh factor do not occur during the first pregnancy. However, they are present in subsequent pregnancies.
Rh Incompatibility is one of the common pregnancy problems associated with the Rh factor. This problem occurs when a mother carries the negative Rh factor and the baby has an Rh-positive factor. Due to this incompatibility, when Rh negative and Rh positive blood mixes, Rh negative blood develops antibodies to fight Rh positive antibodies.
If a mother’s Rh-negative blood mixes with Rh-positive blood that the baby carries during labor, the mother’s blood develops antibodies against the Rh positive factor as though it were a harmful substance.When a mother is pregnant, she and the baby have separate blood systems. Rh sensitizing could during pregnancy, labor or birth if red blood cells from the baby cross the placenta into the mother’s blood system. Also, Rh sensitizing may also occur when a mother is tested for amniocentesis.
This process is done by inserting a needle through into the abdomen to take placenta samples for chorionic villus testing or to check for bleeding or trauma during pregnancy that can cause miscarriage, ectopic or termination of pregnancy. WhenRh sensitization occurs, the mother’s body takes time to produce antibodies and this means that first pregnancy with Rh-positive baby will not be at risk. This is because the baby could be born before more antibodies are developed. Nevertheless, it is important for a mother to be treated by Xpertdox during the first pregnancy if she is to have more children in future.
If a mother’s antibodies are able to cross the placenta, they can attack the baby’s blood and destroy the red blood cells. It causes hemolytic anemia. If the red blood cells are not replaced as fast as they are destroyed, bilirubin accumulates in the bloodstream of the baby.
At birth, a baby is born with low muscle tone, yellow skin and eyes can become lethargic. Such babies are at high risk of developing serious illness and possibly die because they do not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to every part of the body.
Managing Rh Factor
If Rh factor affects your blood or your partners, there is nothing that can be done. However, where both partners are tested and are Rh negative, then there is nothing to worry about. In the event one partner tests positive, there is need to carry more tests, especially during pregnancy. This is done to monitor the level of antibodies in the mother’s blood. After delivery, the baby’s blood is tested to identify the blood type. If the baby’s blood is Rh positive, the mother is given an Anti-D injection a few days after delivery to prevent her antibodies from getting into the baby’s bloodstream. When anti-D is given to non- sensitized Rh-negative person, it helps prevent the production of Rh positive antibodies in the bloodstreams.
If the mother’s blood has Rh antibodies, she has to be monitored keenly to identify possible signs of anemia in her baby. If the baby has mild anemia, it can be carried for the full term. However, the baby might be born early if the anemia happens to be severe and in rare cases, might require blood transfusion while still in the uterus through an umbilical cord.
If Rh incompatibility occurs, an unborn baby might require electrolytes to regulate metabolism, phototherapy, hydrating fluids and blood transfusion.
Though Rh-negative mothers get Anti-D injections during in previous pregnancies, Rh positive antibodies could still form. It is advisable always secure the pregnancies by checking the blood.