Rh Factor as a Complication of Pregnancy

At no other time in a woman’s life do security and a state of well-being probably mean so much than during pregnancy.  This is especially so when we consider that pregnancy carries certain discomforts and complications.  Mothers surely have gone through some of them:  frequent urination, morning sickness, hemorrhoids, backache, vaginal discharge, fatigue, food cravings, heartburn, muscle cramps, varicose veins, changes in the skin, premature birth, and miscarriage.  But of all the many complications of pregnancy, the Rh factor is perhaps the least understood.

Understanding the different human blood types has gained much progress in recent years.  We know, for example, that in a blood transfusion, the blood type to be used must be compatible with the blood type of the transfusion’s recipient.  The Rh factor is present in the blood of some persons; it isn’t in others’.  Because of this, persons are identified as either Rh-positive or Rh-negative.

Medical statistics indicate that approximately eighty percent of women are Rh-positive.  It has likewise been scientifically proven that an Rh-negative woman who is married to an Rh-positive man usually has children who possess Rh-positive blood.  What happens during pregnancy in this case is that an indeterminately small number of blood cells from the fetus may move to the placenta, and then enter the blood of the mother.  Subsequently, the mother’s tissues develop antibodies that have the ability of destroying this type of blood cells – considered as being “hostile.”

The first pregnancy is usually uneventful.  The second or third pregnancy, however, may be marked by the presence of enough antibodies in the blood of the mother; when these antibodies pass through the placenta to enter the blood of the fetus, they start to destroy the fetus’s blood cells, resulting to anemia.  To suppress the tendency of an Rh-negative mother from producing the antibodies that put in peril the babies she may bear after the first, doctors may use an injection of Rh immunoglobulin.  This injection is administered within the first seventy-two hours after the conclusion of every pregnancy, whether the said pregnancy’s conclusion is by childbirth, miscarriage, or abortion.

The danger in an Rh-negative mother not receiving this preventive treatment at precisely the right time can result to her tissues producing the antibodies that can endanger the babies she may bear later.  What’s worse, the danger increases with each subsequent pregnancy.  Thus, we have heard numerous times of babies dying soon after being born.  In some cases, doctors were successful in saving babies with the prompt use of a method called exchange transfusion.  In this medical procedure, the baby’s blood is replaced with blood free from the “unfriendly” antibodies.

This stresses the significance of the supervision of a doctor during pregnancy.  The importance of such supervision is that the Rh-negative blood of a woman is ascertained and appropriate steps are taken to properly deal with the condition.

Source: http://pregnancy.about.com/cs/rhfactor/a/aa050601a.htm