There are a million and one things that go through a woman’s mind when she finds out she is pregnant. Is the baby ok? Is nausea normal? Is it normal not to have nausea? Am I supposed to be so tired? Does high energy mean I am not pregnant, or something is wrong? Are these aches and pains supposed to feel like this? Can I be excited about having a baby and nervous about becoming a mom all at the same time? Yes. All of these things are normal for a new mom, or mom-to-be, to be concerned about.
There are also other things she will be monitored for by her midwife or medical care practitioner, one of them being the RH Factor. The RH Factor is a type of protein found on the surface of red blood cells. If one has the RH antigen, they are considered RH Positive. If they lack the RH antigen, they are RH Negative. Problems arise when the baby does not share the same RH Factor as the mother.
Early blood tests are done on the mom to determine if she is RH Negative or Positive. Based on the results, her pregnancy may take on a new look and will include blood work, tests, and other interventions to ensure that she and baby are healthy and progress safely through pregnancy and delivery. Does this mean increased pain and risk? No, though there are some risks associated with RH and it is important that she is informed early on. This way she knows how to plan for the safest and healthiest labor and delivery that she can. So why is the RH Factor so important? Read on to find out.
15 Protecting The Baby Is Priority
RH Factor in the blood is a substance called an antigen. This antigen produces antibodies to fight foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria and transplanted organs. This is not a problem for a woman in a pregnancy unless she and her fetus have different RH Factor in their blood. This could result in complications like anemia, jaundice or a premature birth. Once a woman’s blood is tested, if this is found to be the case, she would be given injections to help guard against any issues during the pregnancy for her or her baby. This would help her body and the baby’s to be compatible in utero. If the parents have different RH Factors, it is possible the baby will inherit the father's and have a different RH Factor from the mother.
14 Mom's Body Will Try And Take Over
Another thing that occurs with the RH Factor is that it is inherited from one of the parents. If one of the parents has RH in their blood, their baby can inherit one of the factors. This would mean that for future pregnancies, the baby could be born with RH disease. In the first pregnancy, if RH factors are different, it is fine as the mom’s body has not formed anti-bodies against the baby yet. But in future pregnancies, her body will treat the baby as a foreign invader and reject the baby. This will cause all kinds of health problems for babies and is known as RH disease. Baby would have a risk for both short and long term problems. In order to avoid this, injections are offered at the beginning of her pregnancy.
13 The Only Way To Save The Baby Is...
Due to factors like incompatibility with blood types, if this condition goes untreated babies could be at risk for autoimmune diseases when they are born and even in utero. Babies could be born with birth defects. Moms could go into labor prematurely, which brings with it other complications such as a low birth weight, lung development, heart issues etc. Mom could also have an earlier and more complicated delivery with many surgical interventions, which no one wants unless it is absolutely necessary.
The solution to all of this is early evaluation through blood tests of the future mother’s blood type. That way, a proper medical course could be followed to everyone’s benefit and safety. If this is not detected right away, and that is rare, many other complications could develop which would not be good for anyone involved.
12 It Can Affect The Second Pregnancy
If a mom and her baby have different RH factors in their blood (one is positive, one is negative), this does not necessarily mean problems for the first pregnancy and delivery. It usually goes well as mom has not built up antibodies for the resident fetus. However, for future pregnancies, it does not bode as well. As mom’s body has built up defenses against what it sees as the foreign invader on its territory, (which is how the body views the fetus in many cases anyway), serious complications for baby and mom could arise during labor and delivery.
These would be delivery complications for mom and issues for baby afterwards. Of course, if mom gets medical attention from the beginning of her pregnancy this is nothing to worry about.
11 Every Woman Has To Get Tested
Another thing a mom-to-be needs to know is that she will be tested for RH Factor at her first prenatal visit where she will have blood tests done. She will know immediately if she has a different RH Factor from her child and them from her. Her doctor will talk to her about injections that are recommended for hers and her baby’s safety, and they will answer any questions she may have about this condition and how it will affect her and her baby.
A lot of moms-to-be are initially very nervous about the injections, and anything related to RH. But with the right medical attention and information, she and hr baby will be safe and things will go smoothly. This is actually something that occurs in about 15% of the population, so it is not as unique as some people think it is.
10 If It Doesn't Match, Then...
Rhogam treatment is a substance called Rh-d immune globulin that is given to a mom if she is RH Negative Factor. It is a vaccine-like injection placed into the muscle tissue of a woman’s arm or her backside to prevent the woman from forming antibodies against her baby in utero. It is given at the 28 week pregnancy mark for the first time. After that, another dose is administered within 72 hours after delivery of the baby, if the blood test shows that the baby is RH positive.
If the baby is born RH negative, no further treatment is needed. It is also administered after any kind of genetic testing is done, which could result in a mix of mother and baby’s blood. Examples would be chorionic villus sampling (CVS), or amniocentesis. Any kind of trauma during pregnancy also qualifies, such as previous miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or vaginal bleeding.
9 It Can Come Down To Transfusions
If there is any question that the fetus or baby could have a different RH Factor from their mom, there is also a noninvasive blood test that can be used to check the baby’s blood type. The only thing is that not all insurance policies will cover the blood test, as it is expensive. If the baby has RH Negative blood and so does mom, there would be no reason to worry. If the baby has RH Positive blood, this would mean they would be incompatible with each other’s blood types. The next step would be ultrasounds that would be done every week or two to see how the baby is doing. If the doctor sees any development of anemia, they would administer a transfusion of RH negative blood to the baby. This technique is considered to be safe and reliable.
8 There Is A Very Wide Range Of Effects
Kell Antigen is when a baby inherits a Kell gene from one of the parents, usually the dad, and they have the negative antigen while mom has the positive one. Again, as mentioned with RH Factor, mom will develop antibodies during a first pregnancy, but may find themselves with complications in the second pregnancy. With each pregnancy she has a 50/50 chance of having a baby with Kell Antigen Positive. If the baby is born with Kell Antigen Negative, there are no complications. Depending on how much factor a mom-to-be is producing, the effects on the baby would range from fetal anemia to things that are much more serious. Once it is detected, she will get regular blood tests to monitor her levels and her doctor will give her treatment options based on those levels.
7 Treatments Are Unavoidable
Rhlg is something that can be used during pregnancy and delivery. It is used for various reasons, usually starting around the 28th week of pregnancy to prevent sensitization for the rest of a mom's pregnancy. She will be closely monitored by her doctor, and if her baby is born with RH-positive blood, she will be given another dose of Rlg to prevent her from forming antibodies to the RH-positive cells she may have received from her baby before or after delivery. This treatment is given only for the pregnancy that is currently in progress. It will not cover a future pregnancy where she will need another dose of Rhlg. A woman who is RH-negative should also receive a treatment if she has experienced any other pregnancy complications, so her future babies are safe.
6 Previous Pregnancies Matter
If a woman has had birth complications in the past, they could affect her current pregnancy when it comes to RH factor. For example, if she has had a miscarriage, any kind of vaginal bleeding, or even an ectopic pregnancy, matter from the previous baby could still be floating around, and causing her blood to form antibodies against a future baby. This is why it is important that she consider measures to keep herself, her current baby, and any future babies safe and healthy. Injections may be her best bet for staying healthy and for a future baby to stay healthy as well. Her doctor will go over her pregnancy history and give her the best options for treatment for her and her future baby. She will have many options available for sure.
5 Future Decisions Will Be Based On This
If a woman has to have a blood transfusion ever in the future, it is definitively important that her doctor know about her RH Factor and how this would affect the blood transfusion. She may need a transfusion if her pregnancy became risky and she developed anemia, or else had hemorrhaging at some point during her pregnancy. Her doctor would know her blood type and medical history with RH Factor, and would have to proceed carefully and monitor her for any adverse reactions. This would all be discussed throughout her pregnancy, so she would know what could happen if she has a negative reaction and what steps would be taken. It is definitely scary, but with medical technology today the way it is, she would be in good hands.
4 Waiting One To Seven Days
Chorionic Villus Sampling, also known as CVS, is a diagnostic test that identifies chromosomal abnormalities and other inherited disorders. A woman’s health care provider would recommend this test if he/she saw that a woman or her partner’s medical histories had some potential risk factors in them. The procedure involves removal of some chorionic villi cells from the placenta just where it attaches to the uterine wall. It collects larger samples and provides faster results than an amniocentesis if a woman and her partner are concerned. It usually takes one to seven days to receive the results. A woman may be extra nervous about having this done due to already having some risk with RH Factor, but doctors would know how to proceed in that event. They would only be suggesting this test if they were certain that she needed it.
3 Past Transfusions Matter
RH Factor and the treatment herein would also help remove complications if a mom ever needed to get a blood transfusion. They would help her from not developing antibodies and being able to receive this life affirming gift, should she ever have to have a blood transfusion either in labor or at another time in her life. This is why it is important that she find out as early as possible if her blood type is compatible with her baby’s, and look at all her options in order to make the best and healthiest decision for herself and her family in the near future. Her doctor would be happy to discuss what her delivery options would be, as well as future potential health concerns for her and her baby. She will be able to get all the information she needs.
2 If She Has Had An Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg attaches itself in the fallopian tubes. They are also sometimes called tubal pregnancies. As fallopian tubes are not designed to grow a baby, the fertilized egg must be removed for the mother’s safety. This happens in 1 out of 50 pregnancies, and different blood types could be another risk factor when a woman is being treated for this type of pregnancy. Doctors would have to proceed with caution in the removal of the egg, and make sure no material is left behind that could make RH Factor a problem in future pregnancies.
It would also affect a woman’s future pregnancy outcome, and she will probably need Rhlg in future should she become pregnant again. If the fallopian tube is saved, she would have about a 60% chance of successful conception in the future. The important thing is that her obstetrician keeps a record of her birth history for the future.
1 If She Has Had An Induced Abortion
A lot of women may think that a past abortion should have no potentially serious effect on a current pregnancy. But if a mom has RH Factor, she would have the potential that some antibodies were formed even with the removal of the aborted pregnancy and could be affecting her current pregnancy today. The thing is that fetal blood would still have had the potential to get into a pregnant woman’s bloodstream after an induced abortion.
It is not wise then to have the RhoGAM injection. Having this injection at the appointed times in her current pregnancy can ward off serious problems with her blood and the baby’s blood in the future. The last thing she would want is further risk to herself or to her baby.
In the end, as long as she is informed from the very beginning about anything associated with her pregnancy, and asks any pertinent questions so that she knows all the options she will have, things will most likely go very smoothly. She has the power with information to make the safest and healthiest decisions for herself and her family.
Sources: Discoveries In Medicine, Acog, Parenting, What To Expect, American Pregnancy, Babycenter