The Rhesus factor, or otherwise known as the Rh factor, is one important consideration to be taken by mothers during pregnancy. Rh factor is a hereditary trait pertaining specifically to proteins found on the surface of the red blood cells. An individual may either be Rh Positive or Rh Negative. A person who is Rh positive has sufficient proteins on the surface of his or her red blood cells. On the contrary, a person who is Rh negative does not.
Generally speaking, the Rh factor does not affect a person’s health. An individual with Rh positive or negative trait can grow healthily. However, the Rh factor may cause problems during pregnancy. When a mother and her growing fetus do have Rh incompatibilities (meaning, the mother is Rh positive and the baby is Rh negative), special measures are need to be taken under advisement.
During the first prenatal visit, Rh factor test may be a recommended procedure for mothers. The test is a blood examination to indicate whether a woman is Rh positive or Rh negative individual. In some cases, the father of the baby might also need an Rh factor test.
Chances Of Being Rh Incompatible
As mentioned, Rh incompatibilities occur when one parent is positive and the other is negative. It should be mentioned that it is not a great concern if the mother is Rh positive and the father is Rh negative. The growing fetus may either be Rh positive or Rh negative and will need no precautions. However, a problem occurs when the mother is Rh negative and the father is Rh positive.
Fetal And Maternal Blood Mixture
Rh incompatibilities during the first pregnancy may not be a problem, unless there are congenital anomalies, which may cause the mixture of maternal and fetal blood. However, during childbirth, when the baby is delivered, there are chances for fetal blood to leak and mix with that of the mother. When this happens, the mother’s body recognizes the Rh protein as a foreign substance and can produce antibodies against the baby’s Rh proteins. As a result, in the course of the succeeding pregnancies, the antibodies may destroy the red blood cells of the growing fetus.
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Rh Immune-Globulin Shots
Rh immune-globulin shots are administered during the first pregnancy. Once the screening test reveals that there is Rh incompatibility between the pregnant woman and the fetus, a mother is given an Rh immune-globulin shot around the 28th week of pregnancy, and another one within 72 hours after giving birth. The Rh immune-globulin shot acts like a vaccine that prevents the mother from producing Rh antibodies, which can harm the newborn and complicate future pregnancies.
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As mentioned, Rh antibodies are harmless for the first pregnancy. However, they can cause problems in succeeding pregnancies. Once the antibodies are developed, these antibodies will recognize the Rh proteins as foreign substances, and will destroy the fetal red blood cells. As a result, the fetal blood count can be extremely low, and the baby may develop a condition known as “hemolytic or Rh disease”.
It should be cleared that once the antibodies are developed, Rh Immune-Globulin shots will not anymore be helpful. Therefore, close watch must be instituted towards a mother who is a Rh negative and may be carrying Rh positive fetus. It is for this very reason that religious prenatal consultations are crucial for mothers expecting a baby. The baby may be delivered at term and immediately be transfused with blood. Yet, oftentimes, baby with Rh incompatibilities are delivered pre-term, or even be given transfusions while in utero.
Rh Negative Incidence
According to statistics, more than 85% of the population are Rh positive individuals. This apparently connotes that 15% of the population are Rh negative individuals. This Rh factor does not affect a person’s general health. They can be very healthy individuals regardless of their Rh factors. However, the problems may arise during pregnancy, especially when the mother is Rh negative individual. Thus, early detection of Rh factor is necessary to prevent the development of Rh antibodies that may greatly affect future pregnancies.
Rh Factor Testing: When And How Is It Done?
The Rh factor of a pregnant woman is tested using blood samples taken from the vein in the arm. This is usually conducted during the first prenatal visits. If the result is positive, then there is no need to worry. However, if the result is negative, then the pregnant woman will have to undergo another blood test, which is known as the antibody screening. This test is also conducted during the 28th week of pregnancy, and is used to identify whether or not the maternal blood has already developed an antibody against the Rh positive blood of the fetus. When the result of such screening test is positive, special measures will have to be taken, not to mention when the fetus is found to be Rh positive.
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