Rh Factor (Rhesus factor) – Know the facts
What is Rh factor ?
There are 4 blood types A, B, AB, O. Each person belongs to one of the blood type. Rh factor is a protein that is on the surface of red blood cells. Most people have the Rh factor and are Rh positive. Those who do not have it, are Rh negative.
How do I know if I am Rh positive or Rh negative ?
During prenatal care, your blood will be tested to find out your blood type. If your blood lacks the Rh antigen, it is called Rh negative. If it has the antigen , it is Rh positive. In the case of an Rh negative mother and an Rh positive father, the fetus can inherit the Rh factor from the father and become Rh positive. It can cause problems when the fetus has an Rh positive blood and the mother has an Rh negative blood. This is called Rh incompatibility. This problem does not usually occur in first pregnancy but occur in later pregnancies.
I am Rh negative and pregnant. What next ?
You may develop a reaction to an Rh positive baby if you are Rh negative. A small amount of your baby’s blood usually mix with yours during pregnancy. When this occurs, your body may react as if it were allergic to your baby. It then produces antibodies to the Rh antigen in your baby’s blood. This means you have become Rh sensitized. The antibodies can cross the placenta and attack your baby’s blood. This may cause the break down of the fetal red blood cell causing anemia. In severe cases, it may cause serious illness, brain damage or even death of the fetus or newborn.
Sensitization can also occur when an Rh negative mother has had
- a miscarriage
- an ectopic pregnancy
- an induced abortion
- chorionic villus sampling
- blood transfusion
- manual rotation of baby in a breech position before labor
- blunt trauma to the abdomen during pregnancy