What is Rh disease?

Rh disease occurs in a baby when the baby inherits an Rh positive blood group from the father, while the mother is Rh negative.

Your blood group is inherited from your parents. There are four main blood groups: A, B, AB and O. This and the Rh factor (+ or -) determine your blood group. If you have the Rh factor, a protein found in the blood, then you are Rh positive (+). If it is absent, you are Rh negative (-). For example, if your blood group is A+, you have A type blood and are Rh positive.

When the mother is Rh negative and the baby is Rh positive (because of an Rh positive father), it may cause Rh disease for the fetus. Complications for the baby can range from jaundice to hearing and speech loss, to permanent brain damage or death.

Rh disease can easily be prevented. To prevent Rh disease, an Rh immunoglobulin injection is given after delivery. An injection during the last three months of pregnancy is an added improvement. To identify risk of Rh disease, the mother’s blood group needs to be tested.

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