What is Rh factor?
Every person’s blood is one of four major types. A, B, AB, or O. Blood types are determined by the types of antigens on the blood cells.
Rh describes the factor that is found on the red blood cells of most people. People with the Rh factor are Rh positive, those who do not have the factor are Rh negative. Approximately 85% of the United States population is Rh positive and about 15% is Rh negative. The type we are is determined by our parents just like eye color. The Rh factor does not affect a person’s general health. Rh factor can be determined by a simple blood test which only requires a finger stick.
When is Rh important?
Rh is important when donating blood or receiving a blood transfusion and during pregnancy. Rh negative blood donors are always in demand because Rh negative patients need Rh negative blood. Rh positive patients can receive blood from either Rh positive or Rh negative donors. In pregnancy, Rh is especially important when an Rh negative woman carries an Rh positive fetus.
What if I am Rh negative and pregnant?
If an Rh negative woman is pregnant with an Rh positive fetus, her body will produce antibodies against the fetus’s blood, causing a disease known as the Rh disease. Sensitization to the disease occurs when the woman’s blood is exposed to the fetus’s blood. The antibodies attack and destroy the Rh positive red blood cells of the fetus, a progressive anemia develops and in severe cases, there can be heart failure or even death. This hemolytic disease usually does not affect the first pregnancy, but once a woman has produced antibodies, all future Rh positive pregnancies are at risk. Antibody production can be prevented by giving Rh Immune Globulin (Rhlg or RhoGam).
What is RhoGam and what does it do?
RhoGam is a solution containing Rh antibodies which is injected into the Rh negative mother during pregnancy and just after delivery, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or induced abortion.
Once the antibodies have been given, the immune system sees no need to act and the woman’s body does not make her own antibodies even though Rh positive red blood cells from the fetus got into her bloodstream.
Is protection necessary after each pregnancy?
Yes. With each pregnancy the Rh negative woman has a chance of being exposed to the red blood cells of her fetus. Unless it is known for certain that the fetus is Rh negative, the woman should receive protection. Before birth, miscarriage or induced abortion there is no way of knowing the baby’s Rh type unless both parents are Rh negative.
Is RhoGam Safe?
Yes. RhoGam has an excellent safety record. Before it was made available for general use, it was tested in medical centers around the world. Millions of women have received RhoGam safely and delivered healthy babies. RhoGam is prepared by a process that has not been shown to transmit hepatitis or other infectious diseases.
Rh disease is preventable through this simple injection of Rh Immune Globulin.