Rh incompatibility in pregnancy: Things to understand

A negative Rhesus (Rh) test can have serious consequences for a pregnancy. People with Rh incompatibility and their babies, with the proper medical care, can have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

The Rh factor is a protein that is hereditary and can be found on the surface of red blood cells.

Testing negative for Rh protein is not a concern in and of itself, but in some situations, a pregnant woman’s Rh status may differ from that of her infant. This incompatibility may cause medical complications during and after pregnancy if not treated properly.

This page discusses Rh-negative pregnancy testing, results, risks, and follow-ups.

Pregnancy and Rh factor

Rh factor and pregnancy

The most common blood type is Rh-positive, which means that this protein is present in a person’s red blood cells. The remaining population is Rh-negative.

A Rh-negative person will not have any health problems as a result of their blood type. However, if they become pregnant with a Rh-positive spouse, difficulties may arise. In this case, the fetus may be born with Rh-positive blood.

Blood from the fetus can pass the placenta and enter the parent’s blood during pregnancy. Rh incompatibility can cause in a detrimental immunological response in the fetus or infant. The parent’s immune system may perceive the Rh-positive blood as foreign and develop antibodies against it.

Proper testing and care significantly reduce any risk to parent and kid with differing Rh factors.

Rh factor testing

Rh testing is recommended at the start of every pregnancy by medical specialists. It is critical to be aware of Rh incompatibility in order to minimize potential risks.

Other tests and screenings that may be advised include:

  • regular antibody screening throughout pregnancy
  • determining the Rh status of the other parent
  • determining the fetus’s Rh status through amniocentesis.

Rh incompatibility is less problematic during the first pregnancy, according to research. In such circumstances, doctors may opt for routine antibody screening testing. These can indicate whether a pregnant woman is developing an excessive amount of antibodies.

Simple blood tests are used for Rh screening and antibody testing. For both parents, they are usually quick and painless.

A fetus may be at risk of anemia under various circumstances. Advanced ultrasound imaging can be used by doctors to screen for this condition. If a fetus shows signs of anemia, doctors can induce an early delivery or give the fetus blood transfusions.

Rh factor testing

When testing confirm Rh incompatibility, the growing fetus encounters a set of risks.

The following are some of the most common risks after birth:

If a pregnant woman has Rh incompatibility, her immune system may attack the blood of the fetus. If the fetus loses more blood cells than it can create, this might cause in anemia.

Because red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body, this fetus may be deficient in oxygen. This may result in newborn jaundice. It could also cause fluid buildup inside the fetus, which could cause to more complications.

The presence of Rh incompatibility does not always indicate that a fetus will have difficulties. There are numerous diagnostic and treatment options available to help prevent significant health problems.

Preventions

Parental antibodies can be avoided if they are detected early in pregnancy. If antibodies cannot form, they cannot affect the health of the developing fetus.

During pregnancy, doctors may recommend the following to avoid antibodies:

Medications

The most popular method of preventing these antibodies is to use Rh immunoglobulin. This drug is given to pregnant women as an injection and prevents the development of antibodies. This therapy program can help a fetus avoid anemia.

According to research, the earlier doctors offer this medication, the better the outcome. Early detection of Rh incompatibility is critical for initiating this therapy process.

Avoiding fluid buildup

Without immunoglobulin treatment, 24 percent of fetuses experienced fluid accumulation, according to the researchers. This occurred in only 4% of treated pregnancies.

During Rh-incompatible pregnancies, regular antibody screening is critical. Because each pregnancy is different, individuals should consult with a medical team to identify the best care for them.

Treatment options

Immunoglobulin treatment prior to delivery may alleviate symptoms of Rh incompatibility. In the event that this does not occur, a medical expert may suggest one of the following options:

Premature delivery

In some cases of Rh incompatibility, an early delivery may be the best option. A medical expert may advise inducing labor once a fetus’s lungs have formed. While the baby is still inside the uterus, this can help protect it from any further risks.

Exchange transfusion

Doctors may advise an exchange transfusion after delivery. This procedure substitutes a newborn’s blood with that of a healthy donor. Exchange transfusion is especially beneficial for newborns born with jaundice.

Phototherapy

This therapy can also be used to treat neonatal jaundice. The baby is subjected to as much light as possible during phototherapy. This reduces the amount of bilirubin in a newborn’s blood.

There is no single treatment that will work for all Rh-incompatible pregnancies. Regular check-ins and tests with a doctor can assist decide the best course of action for each parent and newborn.

Conclusion

During pregnancy, Rh incompatibility is uncommon. Doctors, on the other hand, urge that all pregnant people undergo exams and tests early in their pregnancy.

There are numerous diagnostic and therapy options available for people who have Rh incompatibility. Regular antibody testing can be very important in preventing complications for both the parent and the child.

Pregnant people with Rh incompatibility can have a healthy pregnancy and birth with proper therapy.

Sources:

  • https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/uog.17555
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-groups/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8504549/pdf/phmt-12-491.pdf
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/jaundice-newborn/treatment/
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/rh-negative
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546246/?report#_NBK546246_pubdet_
  • https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/rh-incompatibility
  • https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jmwh.13086
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560488/#_NBK560488_pubdet_
  • https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/the-rh-factor-how-it-can-affect-your-pregnancy
  • https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(18)30494-0/fulltext