Rh Incompatibility

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

Soon after finding out that you are pregnant, your healthcare professional will likely order a test called a blood type and factor screening. Specifically, this test is able to determine whether your blood is incompatible with your baby’s blood, also referred to as Rh incompatibility.

In a case of Rh incompatibility, if some of your unborn child’s blood enters your bloodstream, your body will produce antibodies to fight the child’s Rh antigens. In some cases, these antibodies are able to pass through the placenta and attack the child’s red blood cells, essentially treating the Rh factor foreign intruder.

If left untreated, Rh incompatibility could have a severe impact on your baby's health. If you believe your doctor failed to order the proper tests at the beginning of your pregnancy, please call Stern Law, PLLC (800)462-5772 to discuss the details of your case for free.

What are the risk factors associated with Rh incompatibility?

The most common risk factors associated with Rh incompatibility are as follows:

  • You are Rh-negative and your husband is Rh-positive
  • You are Rh-negative and already had a child who is Rh-positive
  • You previously had a miscarriage for unknown reasons
  • You have had one or multiple abortions

What are the signs and symptoms of Rh incompatibility?

Typically, there are no signs and symptoms associated with Rh incompatibility that allow you to initially detect whether you have this condition or not. However, if left untreated, a newborn child may experience:

  • Severe anemia
  • Low muscle tone
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Higher than normal levels of bilirubin in the blood
  • Erythroblastosis fetalis (severe hemolytic anemia and jaundice)
  • Brain damage due to kernicterus (a severe form of jaundice)
  • Heart failure.

In extreme cases, a child could die from the condition if medical intervention is not sought immediately.

How is Rh incompatibility diagnosed?

If you are pregnant, your doctor should conduct a blood test to determine whether you are Rh-positive or Rh-negative. If the test indicates that you have already developed antibodies, your blood will be monitored to assess whether your levels change. If your blood shows high amounts of antibodies, your doctor should perform an amniocentesis to determine whether your child has been affected, i.e. develops anemia.

How is Rh incompatibility treated?

Treatment depends upon the severity of the condition. In most cases where there is a potential for Rh incompatibility, a doctor will administer a series of two immune-globulin shots, known as RhoGAM, to a woman around her 28th week of pregnancy. A second shot will be administered within 72 hours after giving birth. For a child affected by Rh incompatibility, he or she may require regular feedings, fluids and phototherapy to break down excess bilirubin levels in the blood.

If a doctor believes that a woman has already developed Rh antibodies, he or she will monitor the pregnancy to make sure her levels do not become too high. If they do and the baby is potentially in danger, a doctor may order a series of special blood transfusions to the child known as exchange transfusions. These types of transfusions replace the baby’s blood with red blood cells that have been attacked by a mother’s antibodies. This procedure ultimately stabilizes the baby’s red blood cell levels and often prevents further medical complications from arising.

If your baby suffered injury due to undetected or untreated Rh incompatibility, you and your child have rights. Stern Law, PLLC has been committed to defending those rights for more than 30 years. For a free consultation, please call (800)462-5772 today.