Rhesus Factor in Pregnancy

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jun 13, 2012
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)

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  • A baby’s blood group may be different from that of the mother.
  • Women’s blood tests are taken to determine the blood type and her rhesus status.
  • Rhesus genes can either be positive or negative.
  • Negative rhesus factor can be a threat to the mother or the baby.


A baby’s blood group may be different from that of the mother and only occasionally do they end up not being compatible. What we are today is influenced by our genes. We inherit most of our traits from our parents right at the moment of conception. There is a decent chance that some of the genes be more dominant than the others. At the first antenatal screening, a woman’s blood tests are taken to determine the blood type and her rhesus status i.e. whether she is Rh-positive or Rh-negative. Rhesus factor refers to the protein on the surface of the red blood cells. If you have the rhesus factors, you are Rh-positive and if you do not have it, you are Rh-negative. About 80% of the people are Rh-positive.

Rhesus Factor in Pregnancy

The Rhesus state makes a difference only when the mother is Rh-negative, the father is Rh-positive and the baby is Rh-positive.

There are several rhesus genes among which are c, d and e that can either be positive or negative. The positive rhesus genes are C, D and E and the negative rhesus genes are c, d and e. The gene that needs attention is the d genes.

The Rh positive cells contain a substance called the D antigen that can stimulate the Rh negative blood to produce antibodies that are harmful and can destroy the red blood cells. The harmful antibody is referred to as anti-D, which has a probability of being produced if the mother is Rh-negative and the baby is Rh-positive.

Rhesus incompatibility, usually, does not occur in the first pregnancies because during first pregnancy, a woman does not have the antibodies present in her blood. The likelihood of a rhesus negative increases with subsequent pregnancies. The mother’s antibodies tend to cross over the placenta, reaching out to the baby’s blood and regarding it as a foreign agent and beginning to break it down. Breaking down of the baby’s blood by the mother’s antibodies causes the baby’s haemoglobin level to fall causing anaemia. It is in this juncture, that a blood transfusion is necessary at birth. The baby may also be severely jaundiced at birth.

A negative rhesus factor during pregnancy has become rare and poses little threat of complications to the mother or the baby. The mother’s Rhesus factor may be identified during screening tests and if the mother is identified as having Rhesus-negative, she may have developed Rhesus antibodies.


Read more articles on During Pregnancy.


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