The relevance of the Rh factor during pregnancy comes from the fact that there are cases when the mother is Rh negative and the father of the baby is Rh positive leading to the baby being RH positive. This is called an Rh incompatibility and there are no typical symptoms of it in pregnancy. It is usually detected medically.
What is Rh Factor?
The Rh factor, short for Rhesus factor is a component of the blood cells in a human being. These factors exist on the surface of the red blood cells. An individual thus either has the Rh factor on the surface of the red blood cells or does not have them.
Now, those individuals who have the Rh factor on the surface on their RBCs are referred to as Rh positive and those individuals who do not have Rh factor present on the surface of their RBCs are referred to as Rh negative. Also the Rh factor refers only to a specific antigen in the Rh system; the antigen is referred to as the immunogenic D antigen.
Rh Factor in Pregnancy
The existence of the Rh incompatibility between the mother and her unborn baby may lead to certain complications. The reason for complications is- if an Rh negative person receives Rh positive blood, the individuals’ body reacts. To be more specific the Rh negative person’s body perceive the Rhesus factor in the Rh positive blood to be an external element and a possible threat. The blood thus makes chemical bodies or antibodies which are meant to defend against the foreign element- the Rh factor. This process is similar to when the body produces antibodies to fight off any sort of virus or infections.
Now, during the pregnancy or at the time of the birth, some of the blood cells from the baby’s blood may circulate and make way to the mother’s blood stream. This is normal in most cases and not an issue. But it becomes an issue when there is Rh incompatibility between the mother and the child. As stated above, the mother’s body will react to the baby’s blood by producing antibodies against baby’s blood cells.
This is not seen to cause problem during the first pregnancy, but if the women has a second incompatible pregnancy it is possible for complications to arise as the mother’s blood already has antibodies (against the Rh factor) present in her blood stream. The antibodies in mother’s blood may travel through the placenta and enter the baby’s blood stream fighting the blood cells.
Even though the situation is complicated and worrisome, medical science has advanced to develop methods to ensure the safety of both the baby and the mother.