What is Blood type?
Blood type can be referred to as the presence or absence of proteins on red blood cells. Blood types; if not properly checked or monitored during pregnancy or after childbirth may put the baby at risk of developing jaundice which may cause brain damage that could lead to cerebral palsy in some cases.
Blood type explains the features of blood cells in a certain individual, blood is typically typed as ABO but also by Rh factor either positive or negative. ABO blood types include A, B, AB and O.
Checking for blood types in the mother and baby after birth and for Rh Incompatibility possibility during pregnancy is quite easy. Once checked and found blood Incompatible, preventive treatments can begin to subdue the effects of blood type Incompatibility.
Concept of Blood types
There are basically two proteins otherwise known as antigens A and B. An Individual with type A blood has A antigens on their red blood cells (RBC) and also one with type B blood has B antigens on their red blood cells while type O blood has no antigens on their red blood cells.
Rh blood type can either be negative (Rh+ or Rh-). Rh+ signifies presence of Rh protein while Rh- signifies absence of Rh protein. Together, with the various blood types (ABO) and Rhesus factors (Rh+ or Rh-), we have eight different blood types (A+, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+, O-). Every person has one of each type.
One’s blood type is gotten from parents. You get a gene each from your parents (your father and mother) and the combination of both genes determines your blood type. For example, if you get a Rhesus factor (Rh+) gene from one of your parents and also a negative (Rh-) gene from another, there becomes presence of protein on your red blood cells and as such referred to as Rh+. Most persons have Rh+ but a few are Rh- i.e they do not have the presence of Rh protein in their red blood cells.
What is Blood Incompatibility?
Blood Incompatibility (Rh and ABO) happens when a mother’s blood type is different from that of her newborn baby. There is a high tendency for a mother’s red blood cells to cross into the placenta or during pregnancy, when this happens, the mother’s blood cells produce antibodies that could attack the newborn baby. Blood cells could cause jaundice. The chances of this happening is highest during delivery.
Blood Incompatibility between a mother and her new born baby can cause different consequences including jaundice and anemia. For ABO Incompatibility, the complications are usually not serious and go with time but with Rh Incompatibility, the consequences can be very severe.
What is Rh Incompatibility?
This condition arise when a woman and her child possess different Rhesus ( Rh) protein factors. It happens when a woman is Rh- and her child is Rh+. The mother’s body will develop an auto- immune response that attacks the fetus or baby. This immune response is quite slow to develop and also rare in first pregnancies. However, other pregnancies after the first pregnancy with Rhesus Incompatibility are at higher risks.
The antibodies of the mother circulates in the fetus to help it survive while the immune system develops but when there’s a blood type Incompatibility, these antibodies conflict and prompts an attack on the baby. This situation isn’t too rampant in our society as most people are Rh+. Rh Incompatibility between a mother and fetus or baby can cause a condition referred to as haemolytic disease of the newborn.
Who is at risk of having Rh Incompatibility?
Women who are Rh negative ( Rh-) and is having a child for a man who is Rh positive ( Rh+) is at risk.
However, with the estimated low percentage of people with Rh- blood type, this condition rarely occur.
It takes time for a woman’s body to develop antibodies, so first born pregnancies or children aren’t always affected.
Signs and Symptoms of Rh Incompatibility
· High Bilirubin Level in infants less than 24 hours old (greater than 6.0 milligrams per deciliter)
· Jaundice (Yellowing of the skin and Whitening of the eyes)
· Low muscle tone
· Brain damage that could lead to Cerebral Palsy
· Destruction of red blood cells
Diagnosis of Rh Incompatibility
A blood test is conducted at your prenatal visit to determine your Rh status. Coombs test ( through your blood sample ) will then be used to fish out cell destructive antibodies in your blood cells.
How is Rh Incompatibility treated?
In mild cases, the baby can be treated with:
· Hydrating fluids
· Blood transfusions
· Electrolytes ( they regulate metabolism)
· Keeping baby under fluorescent lights to reduce bilirubin levels in blood
These procedures may be repeated until excess bilirubin and negative antibodies have been flushed out from the babies blood.
Also, if diagnosed of an Rh Incompatibility, your pregnancy should be closely monitored. Getting an Injection of Rh immune globulins during your first trimester, a miscarriage or while bleeding during pregnancy can prevent severe complications of Rh Incompatibility. If your baby has Rh+ blood type, you should get a second Injection a few days after childbirth.
In severe cases, series of blood transfusions can be done while still pregnant or after delivery.
Rh Incompatibility Complications
· Heart failure
· Swelling or Fluid build-up
· Kernicterus ( brain damage)
· Mental function, movement, hearing and speech problems
Rh Incompatibility is preventable and consultations with your doctor is highly advisable as to what best approach to take.
Note that; treatment of Rh Incompatibility gives a positive outcome mostly in mild cases while in severe cases, positive outcomes are rare and if not properly taken care of or treated could result to death of the baby.