You're Pregnant and
Pregnancy is a very exciting time. This is also the first time most women learn their blood type. You just learned that you are Rh-negative and you probably have a lot of questions like, “What does this mean for me and my baby?”
Understanding your blood type
Rh is the abbreviation for rhesus, which is the name of one of many different blood group systems in the body
Rh-positive people have the Rh antigen (also called rhesus factor or D antigen) on the surface of their red blood cells
Rh-negative people do not have the Rh antigen on the surface of their red blood cells
What does being Rh-negative mean for you and your baby?
During pregnancy, it is normal for a small amount of the baby's blood to enter the mother's bloodstream.
- When an Rh-negative mother carries an Rh-positive baby, and some of the baby’s blood enters the mother’s bloodstream, this is called Rh-incompatibility.
- The mother’s immune system sees the baby’s red blood cells as “foreign” and will try to eliminate them as invaders.
Rh-incompatibility usually does not affect the mother’s first baby, but once she has produced an immune response (called “Rh-sensitization”), all future Rh-positive babies are at risk for developing hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN).
For the newborn, HDFN is a serious condition that may cause anemia, jaundice, and in severe cases, heart failure and possible brain damage.
Since RhoGAM's introduction in 1968, the incidence of Rh sensitization has decreased dramatically1
Reference: 1. Hartwell EA. Use of Rh immune globulin. ASCP practice parameter. Am J Clin Pathol. 1998;110:281-92.