Obstetrics - OB Tests and Procedures - Rh Factor

Rh Factor

If you are a mother with Rh incompatibility, there is a substance in your baby's red blood cells that is not in your blood cells. This substance is usually called the Rho(D) factor. People who have the Rho(D) factor are Rh positive. People who do not have it are Rh negative. Being Rh negative or positive is something you inherit from your parents, just like you inherit the color of your eyes or hair.

While you are pregnant or delivering the baby, some of the baby's red blood cells may come in contact with your blood. Your body makes antibodies to the Rho(D) factor. This reaction is called sensitization. The antibodies may cross the placenta and destroy the red blood cells in your baby or any Rh-positive babies you have later. This destruction of red blood cells is called hemolytic disease. This disease can cause serious problems for the baby.  

Rh incompatibility happens only if you are Rh negative and your baby is Rh positive. It does not happen if you are Rh positive and your baby is Rh negative or if both of you are negative or positive.  

In most cases, development of antibodies can be prevented with testing and proper immunization.

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