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Rh-negative pregnancy: Understanding Rhogam shots

Lana Bandoim's picture

Do you have an Rh-negative blood type, and are you currently pregnant? If the answer is yes, then you may need Rhogam shots.


In addition to the main blood types that include the categories of O, A, B and AB, it is important to understand the meaning of Rh-negative and Rh-positive. These two terms are used to classify blood types into groups, and they indicate if you have the Rh protein on the surface of your blood cells. The Rh-negative category does not have this protein while the Rh-positive group has it. Although your daily life is probably not affected by this categorization, this can change during pregnancy, and you may need Rhogam shots to have a safe pregnancy.

Potential problems for Rh-negative mothers

It is estimated that 15 percent of the population is Rh-negative, and it is inherited genetically. However, if you are pregnant and have Rh-negative blood, then there is a potential for problems. The main issue is that you may have a baby that is Rh-positive. This can occur if your partner has the Rh factor and passes it down to your child.

Your body can react to having an Rh-positive fetus by making Rh antibodies. These antibodies can attack red blood cells that are Rh-positive. The greatest dangers are during delivery and future pregnancies. If you have a second child, then your antibodies can attack the baby’s red blood cells and create problems such as jaundice, anemia and other health concerns.

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What is the Rhogam shot?

Rhogam, also known as rhoGAM and rhod immune globulin human, is an injection that is used for mothers who are Rh-negative and carrying Rh-positive babies. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists mentions that the shot is usually given during week 28 of the pregnancy, but it can also be given within three days of delivery.

You need to be aware of the Rhogam shot side effects and discuss them with your doctor. The most common side effects are headache, dizziness, nausea, rashes, fever, pain and vomiting. In severe cases, you may experience chills, breathing problems, swelling, rapid heart rate, shaking and urination problems. It is also possible to have drug interactions with the shot, so your doctor needs to know about all of the supplements and medications you take on a daily basis.

It is estimated that 10,000 lives were lost per year before the introduction of Rhogam shots. One of the biggest issues was that babies were born with hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN). HDN is characterized by the mother’s antibodies passing through the placenta and affecting the fetus’ red blood cells. This attack on the cells results in babies who are born with jaundice, swelling, anemia and other issues. In severe cases of HDN, they do not survive after delivery.

If you are pregnant, then you should have a blood test to determine if you are Rh-negative or Rh-positive. Depending on the results, you may need Rhogam shots to have a safe pregnancy and healthy baby. It is crucial to seek medical treatments early in your pregnancy and discuss potential problems with your doctor.