Pregnancy Care Guide
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Antenatal care
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Rhesus Factor

Rhesus Factor

Rh Negative Disease (also called Rhesus Alloisoimmunization).
Everyone is born with a specific blood group and an RH factor. For example you may have blood group 'A' with an Rh factor of’ positive' (A+). This blood typing stays with you for life.

In 85% of people, the Rhesus Factor is positive (Rh+). For the other 15%, the Rh factor is negative (Rh-).
Rh Alloisoimmunization can only occur in women who have Rh Negative blood.

If you have Rh negative blood and your husband has Rh positive blood, then it is possible for problems to arise.
If an Rh-negative person receives Rh-positive blood, she will become sensitized and her body will produce antibodies to attach the foreign red blood cells. This is significant in pregnancy for an Rh-negative woman because if her mate is Rh positive, the child can be Rh positive. During amniocentesis or the delivery of the placenta, it is possible for the baby's blood to come in contact with the mother's blood. If this happens, the mother's body will produce antibodies againt the Rh-positive cells. These antibodies will attach the Rh-positive cells. These antibodies will atack the Rh-positive blood cells and cause them to die. This disease is called hemolytic disease in the newborn. Since the sensitizaion does not occur until after the birth, the first baby is not affected, unless the woman was previously senstized and not treated. If a woman is not treated and becomes pregnant againt with an Rh-positive baby, the antibodies will cross the placenta and kill the fetus's red blood cells.

What are the symptoms?
You will have no symptoms. Symptoms and signs of the problem are seen in the baby if he or she develops haemolysis. In this condition, the baby's red blood cells start to break down, causing anaemia. The baby may have other problems due to the anaemia, such as jaundice and, after birth, breathing problems. The baby might even die in the womb if too much of the baby's blood is destroyed.

How is it diagnosed?
Women who are Rh negative with Rh positive husbands are monitored during pregnancy by carrying out various blood tests. It is possible to measure the amount of Rh antibodies in the mother's blood. If they are found to be positive, then there are various other tests which can be done to assess how much the fetus is being affected, the various tests include amniocentesis and cordocentesis by which amniotic fluid sample and blood sample of the baby can be retrieved to assess the damage. The baby maybe delivered prematurely if the risk of letting the baby stay within the uterus is considered higher than the risk of being born preterm.

How can Rh disease prevented?
This complication of pregnancy has not occurred often since the discovery of Rh-immune globulin, something like a vaccine. It is given to an Rh-negative woman shortly after every delivery, miscarriage, or abortion. It is al-so given to a pregnant Rh-negative woman after amniocentesis or, any bleeding episodes. If given routinely during the seventh month of pregnancy it helps to reduce the chances of immunization even further.

Rhesus disease is luckily now almost completely preventable by use of this simple precautionary step. These injections act in a similar way to the same antibodies that the woman would normally create if the baby's Rh positive blood entered her system. The introduced antibodies in the mother will destroy any fetal cells that enter the mother's blood before her system has a chance to send a signal to create natural antibodies. So that immunisation is prevented. Your doctor will be able to give more, details on the schedule of this injection.

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