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Rh Negative? Understanding the Risks

Updated: Oct 2, 2022


During routine prenatal laboratory testing, providers will include Rh factor testing for expectant mothers. In this article, we will be discussing Rh factor, its importance in pregnancy and the potential impacts on both mother and baby.



What is Rh Factor?


Rh factor is a protein that may be found on the surface of red blood cells. Patients who have this protein are Rh positive. Individuals who lack this protein are Rh negative. There are potential complications of pregnancy that affect Rh positive women.

Why Is Rh Factor Important?


Rh factor is important because Rh incompatibility can have negative health effects. If a mother is Rh negative, and her baby is Rh positive, her body may recognize that the Rh positive blood is not hers. In response, her body will make anti-Rh antibodies. These antibodies can attack the baby’s blood cells, leading to serious health problems for the baby.


When Are Rh Antibodies Problematic?


During the first pregnancy, health problems usually do not occur, since her body does not develop a lot of antibodies. Rh antibodies tend to be a greater problem in subsequent pregnancies. Of note, a woman does not need to go full-term to develop antibodies. Rh negative women can develop antibodies after ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or induced abortion.


How Are Rh Negative Pregnant Women Treated?


Pregnant women who are Rh negative are administered a RhoGAM shot to prevent her from making antibodies that attack Rh positive cells. Generally, women are given RhoGAM between 26 and 28 weeks and again within 72 hours after delivery.


Takeaway Message:

Rh screening is a routine part of prenatal evaluation. It is important to determine Rh status, as Rh incompatibility can have a negative impact on current and future pregnancies. Providers will administer RhoGAM shots to avoid these complications.


Are you Rh negative? How did this impact your pregnancy? Please share in the comments below.

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