As a young mother in the early nineties, I just gave birth to my beautiful baby girl. Along with many things that I didn’t know about taking care of a baby, I didn’t realize that I had to learn how to take care of my own health as well. I can remember the day of my baby’s birth, a gruff but nice nurse came into the room where I was sharing with another woman. She came next to my bed and said, “Honey, do you realize that you are RH negative?” I looked at her with a deer-in-headlights look having no idea what she meant or the implications that it had. She just gave me a shot in the arm and told me that I could’ve spread it to my baby. Fast-forward into 2013. My daughter had her 12 week check-up today and I had a deja vu feeling again from the prenatal doctor who explained that my daughter is RH negative. Good news….the mother and baby are healthy! 🙂
Having an RH-positive status means that your blood will more in likely match with your baby’s blood. It has been said that about 85% of Caucasians, 90-95% of African Americans and 98-99% of Asian Americans are RH-positive. Unfortunately for the females of my family, we are RH-negative. This means that if you are RH-negative, you are going to have to take certain precautions during your pregnancy. Don’t worry, if you are RH-incompatible with your baby, it probably won’t harm you or your first child during gestation. If at some chance you and your baby’s blood mixes into each other, your immune system will produce antibodies against the positive RH blood. In the event of this happening, you will become RH-sensitized. This can attack the blood of your future child if you don’t get the vaccine. This vaccine can stop any cross-contamination by an injection called RH immune globulin. This is given to first-time pregnant women if there is a chance that it will be exposed to the second infant’s blood.
But lets just say that you have become sensitized. You will have the antibodies for the rest of your life. The production of the antibodies will live on in your blood increasing the risk of RH disease with every subsequent pregnancy. But good news is on the horizon. Doctors are seeking new ways to save children born with the RH disease. Keeping tabs on the baby’s condition throughout gestation by either a Doppler ultrasound or an amniocentesis will help your doctor monitor the situation. About 5,000 babies a year still develop RH disease although doctors and nurses are trying to screen and treat as many women as possible.
So I guess that gruff but nice nurse was right….