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Old 08-28-2003, 08:03 PM
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What does it mean to be Rh-negative?

Expert: Suzanne Dixon, M.D., MPH

Question: Could someone please explain to me what Rh-negative means and what it will do to my unborn baby?

Suzanne Dixon: During your first prenatal exam, you'll be given a routine blood test. The test is used to determine your blood type (A, B, AB, or O) and your Rh status (positive or negative). Your blood is also screened for the presence of Rh antibodies. Your Rh status describes whether or not you have a protein on the surface of red blood cells. If you don't have the Rh factor, you're considered Rh-negative; if you have it, you're Rh-positive. About 85 percent of people are Rh-positive, though it varies by race. About 90 to 95 percent of African Americans are Rh-positive. Among Asians, the figure is 98 to 99 percent.

If an Rh-negative mom is carrying an Rh-positive baby (the child having inherited that characteristic from an Rh-positive dad), there's the potential for a problem to arise. If some of that infant's red blood cells leak into the maternal circulation, Mom's immune system may react to the Rh component on the surface of these cells as if it were a foreign invader. Mom will become "sensitized"; that means her body will produce antibodies against the Rh factor that can cross the placenta and attach to the baby's Rh-positive red blood cells. This will cause the red cells to break down, producing an anemia in the baby and possibly jaundice. This is called RH disease.

During the pregnancy of an Rh-negative woman, tests are done to see if this process has occurred. An injection of Rh immunoglobulin or RhoGam (preformed antibodies), is routinely given late in pregnancy and after delivery or after a miscarriage or an abortion to an Rh-negative mom who has not yet been sensitized. These preformed antibodies attach to any fetal cells that have crept into her circulation, "hiding" and destroying those invaders before an immune response is triggered in the mom.

The regular use of Rh-immune globulin, although not 100 percent effective, has had a major impact on Rh disease in newborns. Pediatricians-in-training now rarely even see this condition, which was a very frequent and serious problem just a few years ago. Rh disease used to cause problems ranging from severe newborn jaundice and the need for blood transfusions to preterm miscarriages and stillbirths. Thanks to new treatments, complications from being Rh-negative and carrying an Rh-positive baby pose little threat.

So the answer is: You need to have regular and early care during your pregnancies and your physicians all need to know your blood type and do the appropriate tests during your pregnancy (often termed an antibody screen or indirect Coombs test). You should receive RhoGam late in pregnancy and after delivery and after any miscarriages or abortions.

Your child's physician will do additional tests on the baby's blood collected from the umbilical cord (called cord blood) at the time of delivery to check for any evidence of the cells breaking down or of anemia. If you have an Rh-negative child, none of that will have to be done after the birth, however.

The near eradication of Rh disease has been one of the triumphs of modern obstetrical care. You and your unborn child will be the beneficiaries of these advances.


I am Rh-negative so this info. was of particular interest to me. I went through 2 preganancies with all of the above procedures and everything turned out fine.


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Old 08-28-2003, 08:41 PM
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I am Rh-negative also, I had my oldest daughter and then had 2 miscarriages which I'm sure were related to this, later I had 3 more babies with no problems at all. My oldest daughter is 25 and this all happened when they were just learning to deal with the Rh problems.

Thanks for posting the info ajrsmom, I'm sure there are some who wonder what it is.
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Old 01-28-2008, 06:10 AM
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RH factor information

Hi - just want to pass this along in case it might help someone. I am RH negtive which was not found until my 3rd pregnancy. (I miscarried my first 2 babies and finally had a baby the third time). Because it was not known I was RH negative - I never received any shots of any kind after my miscarriages. (But during my third pregnancy - yes - after it was found I was indeed RH negative)
A friend of mine is pregnant and experienced bleeding, went to the hospital and they found she was RH negative and gave her the shot needed. She now seems to be fine and is carrying baby well.
I am thinking/wondering/advising that if you are pregnant, be sure to ask whether you are RH negative or not.....
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Old 02-01-2008, 01:46 PM
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I'm RH negative (A negative blood) and will never forget the feel (big, fat and thick stuff I could feel pushing into my thight) of the needle with anti bodies they give you after I had my 2 babies.
All things went right through both pregnancies as it was picked up first natal exam, and that was just over 18years ago.

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Old 02-01-2008, 02:02 PM
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I found out when I was pregnant with my firstborn (dd) in 1968 that I am RH negative. At that time RhoGam was so new that the doctor who did the blood work for me watched very closely to see if I developed the antibodies. He wanted to take blood weekly if I did, and offered to pay me $100 each time. I didn't, and had the shot after delivery. I didn't have to have the shot with ds, so he must have been RH negative.
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Old 02-06-2008, 05:59 PM
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Rh Negative AND sensitized

Important info missing - that this Rh immune globulin injection helps only if you are not already "sensitized", since it is preventive in its nature, not a treatment. Not all doctors know that. When I happened to be bleeding in emerg room when I was pregnant with my first one, and the emerg. doctor learned that I am Rh negative and didn't had the shot, he was insisting on giving me the shot. I refused, explaining to him that I am already sensitized. I guess he thought that I don't even understand what I am talking about. In the end he had to call some other doctor and learned that I was right, so he left me alone. Both my sons were fine though. The first one was lackily Rh negative, and my second was Rh positive, but my titer (antibody count)never went up - meaning that we never had blood exchange.
Olga, 43, of Toronto-Brampton, happy mom to two wonderful sons: Sasha, June 1, 2001, and Tahir, February 26, 2003
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