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A few millilitres of blood from a vein is required.
Rhesus Antibodies (Rh Ab's) are produced by a Rhesus negative woman in response to exposure to Rhesus antigens in the blood of her Rhesus positive baby. The “positive” or “negative” part in a person’s blood group (eg O positive, AB negative, etc) refers to whether their blood cells carry the Rhesus protein. Rhesus negative individuals will react to the Rhesus protein by producing antibodies against it. This may occur with a relatively minor “leak” of baby’s blood into the mother’s bloodstream across the placenta, so-called feto-maternal haemorrhage. A small amount of Rhesus protein can sensitise the woman's immune system to produce a large amount of antibody to the Rhesus antigen. In a susbsequent pregnancy, these antibodies can cross the placenta to destroy the red blood cells of an unborn baby, if that baby’s blood group is Rhesus positive.
This problem only occurs in Rh-negative women, who carry an Rh-positive baby. It is usually not significant for that particular pregnancy, but may cause serious anaemia (low blood count) in a second or subsequent pregnancy with another Rh-positive baby. This is called Haemolytic Disease of the Newborn (HDN) or Hydrops Fetalis in its most severe form. Thankfully this is a rare occurrence in modern times, with the preventive treatment available. Anti-D Immunoglobulin is given as an injection to Rhesus-negative women who experience an event that may cause a small amount of baby’s blood to cross the placenta, including:
The presence of Rhesus Antibodies (Rh Ab’s) suggests a risk of Haemolytic Disease of the Newborn (HDN) in a subsequent pregnancy.
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