What is an Rh Incompatible Pregnancy and How Should It Be Treated?

mom testing for Rh incompatible

During pregnancy, your doctor administers a series of prenatal tests and screenings during each trimester to ensure both you and your baby are healthy. One of the most important tests is a maternal blood test, typically completed during the first trimester. It not only screens for blood infections such as hepatitis B and HIV, but it also determines your blood type and if you are Rh incompatible with your baby.

If you have an Rh incompatible pregnancy, your doctor must take certain precautions to prevent Rh disease and other serious complications. Our birth injury attorneys want you to be aware of the symptoms your baby may experience, and how it may develop into a birth injury case, if left untreated or misdiagnosed.

Defining an Rh Incompatibility Pregnancy

The rhesus (Rh) factor is a type of protein on the outer surface of blood cells. Humans may either be Rh positive meaning the protein is present or Rh negative meaning the protein is not present on their blood cells. For example, if you are O+, the Rh protein is present on your blood cells, whereas O- means it is not.

A person’s positive or negative Rh factor does not affect their everyday lifestyle or make them Rh incompatible. However, during pregnancy, complications may arise if you have a negative Rh factor and your baby has a positive Rh factor — causing an Rh incompatibility pregnancy.

Causes and Risks with Rh Incompatibility 

The main cause of an Rh incompatible pregnancy is genetics when a mother who is negative becomes pregnant with a baby who is positive. With Rh incompatibility, your body’s immune system responds to the difference and creates antibodies against it. The antibodies then lead an attack against the fetus’s opposing blood cells, which is called Rh sensitization.

While mothers do not share their blood with their baby during pregnancy, a small amount may mix with your blood during labor. This may lead to Rh disease where a mother’s antibodies pass into the fetus’s blood and attack its red blood cells and cause serious health problems for the baby such as heart or liver failure, jaundice or in extreme cases, a stillbirth.

Common Symptoms of Rh Incompatibility

Mothers who are having their first baby typically do not experience any sensitivity to the incompatibility. However, if it is a second pregnancy, the risk of Rh sensitization is higher and leads to more complications.

Some common symptoms of the condition in babies include:

  • Yellow amniotic fluid due to increased presence of bilirubin;
  • Jaundice;
  • Heart failure;
  • Enlarged organs;
  • Pale skin;
  • Increased breathing and/or heart rate;
  • Swelling under the skin;
  • Lethargy after birth; or
  • Kernicterus, also known as a severe presence of bilirubin in the baby’s brain.

Treating an Rh Incompatibility Pregnancy

Rh immune globulin is the most common form of treatment for an Rh incompatible pregnancy. It is an injection that mothers receive a few times during the pregnancy. The medication stops the mother’s body from making Rh antibodies against the baby, but it is only helpful if the mother’s body hasn’t already made the antibodies.

If your body has already made the antibodies, your baby is at an increased risk for Rh disease, and you must be monitored closely for the rest of your pregnancy. In some cases, your doctor may schedule an earlier delivery depending on the severity of Rh disease.

Building an Rh Incompatibility Lawsuit

Rh incompatible pregnancies are fairly common and highly treatable as long as your doctor follows the standard of care by testing your blood and treating the condition if an Rh incompatibility is detected between you and your baby. If your doctor fails to conduct the proper tests or provide proper treatment, they may be liable for medical malpractice.

At Zevan Davidson Roman, our birth injury attorneys understand all the intricacies of a lawsuit where your doctor may have misdiagnosed, mistreated or failed to follow the standard of care. We will work to hold those responsible accountable for the lack of care and attention experienced by you or your child. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, contact our attorneys now.

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