What Rhesus negative women need to know before pregnancy –Gynaecologist


Angela Onwuzoo

A Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Modupe Adedeji, has urged Nigerians to seek education on their blood groups as well as the A, B, O and rhesus classifications from childhood.

The gynaecologist noted that women who are Rhesus negative also need proper education on blood groups, especially when they have husbands that are rhesus-positive. 

Dr. Adedeji noted that knowledge of the blood group is very important because emergencies could arise at any point, adding that Nigerians must know that every blood type could have babies. 

She, however, stressed that a rhesus-negative mother who is married to a rhesus-positive spouse needs to take extra precautions to avoid health complications during pregnancy.

The gynecologist said such a couple needs very good preconception care and prenatal involvement of a fetal medicine specialist as well as a neonatologist.

This, she reiterates, is necessary as this could result in the fetus being either rhesus negative or positive.

She, however, added that the couple’s Rhesus status is not an indication for them not to go ahead in marriage.

Dr. Adedeji disclosed this during an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, stressing that it is important for couples to know their Rhesus status, especially pregnant women.

She pointed out that the Rhesus factor could cause complications in pregnancy if the mother is Rh-negative and her baby is Rh-positive.

According to Healthline Networks, a provider of health information headquartered in California in the United States, every partner must know that everybody has a blood type and there are four major blood groups: A, B, O and AB. These groups differ primarily on the presence or absence of antigens that can stimulate an immune response.

“In addition to these four groups, a protein called Rhesus (Rh) factor may be either present (+) or absent (-) within each group.

“This further defines blood groups into eight common types: A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, and AB-.

“Compatibility in blood group is only a concern for couples if a pregnancy is involved where both partners are the biological parents. That’s because of the Rh factor.

“Rh factor is an inherited protein, so being Rh-negative (-) or Rh positive (+) is determined by your parents. The most common type is Rh-positive.

“Being Rh-positive or negative typically does not affect your health, but it could affect your pregnancy,” the portal added.

The gynaecologist explained, “If the foetus is negative like the mother, this is compatible and the foetus is safe.

“However, if the foetus is positive like the father, the mother is exposed to rhesus-positive blood.

“Hence, forms antibodies against this blood type. The first baby escapes prenatal morbidity or mortality but the subsequent babies may not when they are rhesus-positive blood type.

“This is what we call Rhesus isoimmunisation. The complications that could occur basically to the foetus is similar to heart failure in utero while ex-utero if the fetus escapes intrauterine death.

“They become jaundiced and anaemic (Neonatal Jaundice and Neonatal Anaemia) and possibly other organ failures can occur resulting in neonatal death if proper care is not given and even in expert hands, death of the baby can still occur.”

According to Cleveland Clinic, the Rhesus factor, or Rh factor, is a certain type of protein found on the outside of blood cells.

The clinic notes that people are either Rh-positive (they have the protein) or Rh-negative (they do not have the protein), saying that this distinction mostly matters when you are Rh-negative and your child is Rh-positive.

“This protein does not affect your overall health, but it is important to know your Rh status if you are pregnant. Rh factor can cause complications during pregnancy if you are Rh-negative and your child is Rh-positive,” the clinic adds.

Dr. Adedeji stated further that Rhesus isoimmunisation is one of the causes of prenatal morbidity and mortality in this environment as this blood type is common in Africa.

“This is not an indication for such a couple not to go ahead in marriage.

“All they need is very good preconception care and prenatal involvement of a fetal medicine specialist and neonatologist. This would go a long way to bring about a favourable outcome,” she said.

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