October 26, 2018 By Dr Manju Nair
Did I Miscarry Because I’m Rh-Negative?
Never heard of Rh-sensitisation? Allow us to fill you in.
Blood groups can be divided into two major categories — major (the kind you already know about) and Rh. When it comes to the latter, people are either classified as Rh-positive or Rh-negative. The Rh-negative blood type can pose risks during pregnancy, including increasing the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth in the second or third trimester. Nowadays, women with a negative blood group are preventively given the RhoGAM injection, to reduce the risk involved. Now for a little background on this little-discussed blood type.
What Is Rh Factor?
Rh, short for rhesus, pertains to a protein hosted by red blood cells. With almost 90% of people exhibiting Rh positivity, those lacking the protein are in a minority. And although this doesn’t harm their quality of life in any way, it can play a role in influencing miscarriage. Rh factor is solely governed by genetics.
What Is Rh Factor Sensitisation?
Rh factor sensitisation is a phenomenon that occurs when your and your baby’s blood – being of opposite Rh factors – result in a chemical reaction. If you are Rh-negative and your baby is Rh-positive, there is a high chance that your body will develop antibodies to protect itself from its perceived ‘foreign body’. This can be harmful to your baby and potentially lead to pregnancy loss.
What Is the Link Between Rh-Sensitisation and Miscarriage?
A sad mother looking in an empty crib
Being Rh-negative doesn’t mean that you will necessarily have a miscarriage. It simply means that you carry a risk of being sensitised if your blood reacts with your baby’s. This risk greatly reduces if you’ve received the RhoGAM injection during this pregnancy, or after a previous pregnancy loss, ectopic pregnancy or abortion. Even if you haven’t had any prior losses, it’s important to get yourself checked for the Rh(D) antibody. If you are Rh-negative, receiving the RhoGAM shot early on can arrest any potential sensitisation.
Can I Successfully Carry Future Pregnancies to Term?
An unhappy woman
If you’ve experienced Rh sensitisation in previous pregnancies, you still have plenty of hope in carrying future pregnancies to term. If both you and your partner are Rh-negative, you can breathe easy, because you’re assured of an Rh-negative baby. But if you are Rh-negative and your partner is Rh-positive, your baby could have either blood group. This is why it’s important to have your and your partner’s Rh blood groups checked early on. If you are Rh-negative, even with the vaccine, your doctor will advise you to take extra care during your pregnancy and will likely routinely check your baby for signs of anaemia. If anaemia is detected, you may be advised an early delivery or a fetal blood transfusion. An additional transfusion upon birth may also be required.
If you’ve previously loved and lost a little one in your belly, Rh factor may have a role to play. It’s wise to rule out the risks before planning another pregnancy so this time, you can prepare your body, protect your baby and go all the way up to the finish line.
Must read – Everything you need to know about miscarriages