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Pregnancy Topics..

You are here : home > Pregnancy > Complications during Pregnancy > Rh Disease

Rh Disease

Are you aware of the Rh disease? Find about the causes and symptoms of Rh disease. Learn about the treatment options and measures to prevent his disease during pregnancy?

Who is at risk for Rh incompatibility?

When you first go to meet your gynecologist, she or he will usually ask you to take a blood test to determine your blood type.  People with no Rh factor in their blood are called Rh negative.  If you are Rh positive (85% are), or if both you and the father are Rh negative, then there is no issue.  However, if you are Rh negative (Rh-) and your partner is Rh+, and if this is your second pregnancy (or later), preventive measures are not taken. Else, the baby may contract the Rh disease, and the baby's health may be at risk.

What is Rh disease?

In a situation where Rh incompatibility exists, Rh disease occurs when the Rh factor enters the Rh negative's mother’s circulatory system during the delivery of a baby who has inherited the Rh factor from his or her father. The mother's immune system reacts by producing antibodies to act against the "foreign" substance. These antibodies have no effect in a first pregnancy. If the woman gets pregnant again with an Rh positive baby, the antibodies cross the placenta and attack the foetal red blood cells which could lead to anaemia in the baby.

How can Rh disease be prevented?

The good news is you can prevent this condition. In case you think you are pregnant and have negative Rh blood type, you must devise a course of action with your doctor.

A dose of vaccine can control the incidence of Rh disease. At 28 weeks, an expectant Rh negative woman showing no antibodies in her blood is given a dose of Rh-immune globulin. She is given another dose 72 hours after delivery if the baby is Rh positive. If the levels of antibodies are very high in the mother's blood, endangering the life of the foetus, a transfusion of Rh negative blood in the foetus may become necessary.

What are the symptoms of Rh incompatibility?

The symptoms tend to range from mild to severe for an unborn child. Chances of haemolytic disease increase when antibodies of the mother attack red blood cells of the baby. In this condition the red blood cells get destroyed.

In course of this process, bilirubin tends to build up in the bloodstream of the baby. It is a kind of chemical byproduct from the red blood cells that has been broken down. Too much of this can signal trouble for the liver.

How is Rh status determined?

Your Rh status can be measured with blood tests. This is supposed to be done in the first trimester of your pregnancy. In case the result is negative, your doctor shall look for the following.

Amount of Amniotic Fluid

Usually there is about 5cm of amniotic fluid. The levels are also influenced by factors like the stage in your pregnancy. In case of RH incompatibility, the amniotic level shall be higher than usual.

Coombs Test

You shall be asked to go for a Coombs test. Your blood sample shall be collected to look at the antibodies destroying cells on the red blood cells surface.

Bilirubin Level

Doctor shall look for higher levels of bilirubin in the infant's blood. The permissible level is lower than 6.0mg/dl.

Antibodies Test

The healthcare provider shall look for antibodies that are destroying red blood cells of your baby. This can be figured out by examining structure and shape of the cells under a microscope. Your doctor may even test for presence of antibodies in blood that are breaking the red cells.

What are the treatment options for Rh disease?

Treatment procedures are mainly geared towards preventing the incompatibility effects. In cases that are not very severe, the baby is offered treatment after birth with blood transfusions, electrolytes and hydrating fluids or phototherapy. In case of phototherapy the baby is placed under fluorescent lights to keep down the bilirubin levelsin her blood. The procedure is repeated till additional bilirubin or Rh negative antibodies are removed from the blood of the baby. If the process shall be repeated depends on the condition of the baby.

If doctor finds out that you have already developed antibodies against your child in pregnancy, he shall want to monitor your pregnancy very closely. He may want to perform some blood transfusions while you are still carrying her in your uterus. However, this practice is carried out in less than one percent of the incompatibility cases.

Injections of Rh immune globulins can help prevent effects of incompatibility in the first trimester. The blood product has antibodies to Rh factor. You shall be given another injection in case your baby has Rh positive blood.

How to prevent Rh disease?

Rather than worrying it is always better to have a talk with your doctor about the best possible measures you can take up. With advancement of medical science you can certainly expect a hassle free and comfortable journey all through your pregnancy.

Is it possible to prevent Rh disease during pregnancy? How are the effects of Rh disease on the unborn baby? What ways are followed to treat Rh disease during pregnancy? Discuss here.

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Shekhar.5 years ago
nice information....good to know so much about Rh factor and incompatibility. Helped in better understanding.
Riri.5 years ago
Rh incompatibility is now not a major issue as it was some years ago. Thanks to advancements, it can be dealt effectively without causing any harm to the baby.
Macy.5 years ago
I am Rh negative and my husband is Rh positive. We are planning to have a baby. Should we go ahead or consult a doctor before that?
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