Rhogam Shots- Who Needs Them?

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Rhogam Shots- What Are These?

Pregnancy involves a lot of ups and downs, when you are pregnant, you might have heard from the doctors that you need Rhogam shots, what are they?

The doctors will inform you that your baby’s blood type is different from your blood type. Every person bor has certain blood types like O, A, B, or AB. Other than blood groups, they are born with Rh factor or Rhesus factor, which determines whether the blood type is positive or negative. Baby’s inherit their Rh factor from their parents same as some facial features or skin pigments.

When the mother is Rh-negative but the father is Rh-positive, it may lead to some life-threatening complications in the baby and this is called Rh Incompatibility or Rh diseases.

You do not have to panic instantly reading this, it is important to visit a doctor and get screened for possible diseases before concluding by yourself. Rh diseases are generally rare and they can also be prevented.

To offset the issues, the doctors might give you RhoGAM shots also known as Rho(D) immune globulin. They are given at about 28 weeks of pregnancy or whenever the mother’s blood mixes with the blood of their developing baby while going for prenatal tests or during delivery.

Let’s see in detail what are Rhogam shots and what is Rh factor.

Rh Factor

Rh factor is a protein that is present in red blood cells. All those who have this protein on their red blood cells are Rh-positive and those who don’t are needless to say Rh-negative. Most are positive, only 18% of the total population is Rh-negative.

When we talk about your health and Rh factor, there is nothing to be worried about even if you have an Rh-negative blood type. Even if you ever require a blood transfusion, the doctors can easily provide a blood type that is Rh-negative. The main concern arises during pregnancy when there is a potential chance of mixing positive and negative type of blood types.

Rh Incompatibility

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Rh incompatibility is seen when a woman having Rh-negative blood type conceives a baby from an Rh-positive man. As per National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are 50% chances that the baby born will inherit Rh-negative blood type, which will make the mother and baby both Rh compatible, and hence there will be no issues and no treatment is required.

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There are however 50% chances that the baby will acquire an Rh-positive blood type which will result in Rh incompatibility.

It is easy to determine Rh incompatibility by simply taking a blood sample from you, your child, and the father.

  • If both parents are tested Rh-negative, then the baby is also Rh-negative
  • If both parents are positive for Rh, the bay is also positive.
  • If one is positive and one is negative, there are 50-50 chances for the baby.

Usually, blood tests are performed during prenatal visits. Also, if you are Rh-negative, the doctors will also screen your blood to check the Rh antibodies.

  • Antibodies are proteins made by our immune system to protect and fight against foreign substances entering inside the body like Rh-positive blood in this case.
  • If you already have such antibodies, this means that you are already exposed to blood type having Rh from previous delivery for instance a mismatched transfusion of blood or abortion.
  • The baby is at higher risk of Rh incompatibility when their father is Rh-positive.
  • You might need screening a few times throughout the pregnancy to set and gauge antibodies. The higher the antibodies, the severe are complications.
  • If you have a lot of such antibodies, taking Rhogam shots would not help the baby. But this shouldn’t make you freak out because the doctors have solutions designed for you. The doctors may order screening tests like ultrasounds to monitor the growth of the baby.
  • The doctors might give the baby blood transfusion via the umbilical or placental cord or suggest an early delivery to avoid complications.

Sometimes the Rh incompatibility in baby and mother can produce mild complications that do not require a lot of treatment.

Also, for the first-time mothers to be, the first pregnancy is usually not affected by Rh incompatibility. This is because it might take a time period longer than usual 9 months for Rh-negative mother to prepare antibodies to fight Rh-positive blood type.

Here comes the main question, what are Rhogam shots, and how they affect Rh incompatibility during pregnancy?

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Rhogam Shots usage

Rh-negative mothers will receive Rhogam at several intervals during the pregnancy when the father’s Rh factor is either unknown or positive. Rhogam shots are very important in such cases because they prevent the mother from creating antibodies that are required to fight against Rh-positive blood types. These antibodies should be stopped because they destroy the blood types of babies.

Rhogam shots are given routinely to the mother whenever there are chances of mixing of blood between the baby and mother, These items include:

  • Between 26th week to 28th week of pregnancy. At this stage, the placenta starts thinning out. Although it is unlikely to occur sometimes the blood might transfer from the baby to the mother.
  • They are given after stillbirth, abortion. miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that develops outside the uterus)
  • They are also given within 72 hours of delivery even when the delivery is cesarean if the baby is Rh-positive.
  • They are given after testing of the baby’s cell during amniocentesis (a test used to examine developmental abnormalities in the child and amniotic fluid) or chorionic villus samplings (a test used by looking at tissue samples for genetic problems)
  • After any trauma to the midsection, this might occur after a car accident or a fall.
  • Any manipulation to the developing child for example when the doctors turn unborn babies settled in breech positions.
  • During vaginal bleeding, while you are pregnant.

Rhogam shots are prescription drugs typically given to the mother via injections into their muscle often in the backside. It may also be given intravenously. The doctors will let you know the right dosage and where to give it. Rhogam is very effective for nearly 13 weeks.

While it might seem really good to take and tackle all the issues related to Rh incompatibility, however, there are some side effects like other medicinal things.

Side Effects Of Rhogam Shots

Rhogam shots
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Rhogam shots are safe drugs and they have a record of protecting babies from Rh diseases or Rh incompatibility for over 50 years. However, there are a few not-so-serious side effects that you should know. These are:

  • Hardness
  • Pain
  • Aches
  • Rashes or redness
  • Swelling
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These were common side effects of Rhogam shots, a less common side effect is slight fever. Some people also have allergic reactions to taking Rhogam shots. You should know that these side effects are not going to affect the baby anyhow. Rhogam shots are not for you in case:

  • You already have antibodies that are Rh-positive.
  • If you are allergic to certain immunoglobulins
  • If you have hemolytic anemia
  • If you have had vaccines recently as Rhogam will reduce their effectiveness.

Rh disease or Rh incompatibility does not affect one’s health, but if the mother declines to have Rhogam shots during pregnancy, it will affect the baby’s health and future pregnancies. The baby might be born with several conditions if the mother declines to have Rhogam shots, these are:

  • Heart failure.
  • Brain damage
  • Anemia (lack of healthy red blood cells)
  • Jaundice (yellowing tinge to their eyes and skin due to improper functioning of baby’s liver, but jaundice is fairly common in newborn babies)

Note that prices and insurance for Rhogam shots vary. Rhogam shots are costly, you can expect them to cost around several hundred dollars per injection and you need several injections during pregnancy. As long as the baby is completely safe, this amount is not very much. Many insurance companies cover some of the costs involved in Rhogam shots.

The Bottom Line

Rh diseases or Rh incompatibility are not very common and many people are not aware of such diseases. These are completely preventable and treatable so they should not make you panic and worry too much in sensitive times like pregnancy.

You should know your partner’s blood type and your blood type before pregnancy to avoid complications. You must talk to a doctor if anyone among the two of you is Rh-negative. The doctors will let you know when Rhogam shots will be given and how many doses are required in your case.

They might also perform certain screening tests to find out the blood type or if you already have developed Rh antibodies. In such cases, there are few treatment options and solutions available to help you and your baby.

You can have more information on your baby’s development through this 40 weeks pregnancy calendar.

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