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Rhesus conflict during pregnancy: consequences for the baby

To understand what threatens a pregnant woman with a Rhesus conflict, you should have an idea about him. Surely many have heard that our blood is Rh-positive or Rh-negative. Nevertheless, this is far from everyone.

Rhesus factor – what is it?
This is the name for a specific protein located on human red blood cells. Not everyone has it, but most have 85% of the world’s population. When it is, they say that the blood is Rh-positive, when it is absent – Rh-negative.

What does rhesus conflict mean during pregnancy?
This term means that the mother and the unborn baby have different Rh factors: the woman is negative, and the fetus is positive.

What happens with a rhesus conflict?
If the blood of the mother and the child is mixed, the woman forms an immune response to a foreign protein – the production of antibodies begins.

As a rule, maternal blood during pregnancy does not mix with the blood of the fetus, with the exception of pathologies or diagnostic studies. That is why with a normal first pregnancy, nothing threatens the child.

At the first pregnancy, the fetus is not in danger
The child’s blood gets to the mother most often during childbirth, then antibodies are formed in her blood – immunoglobulins. But there are still a few of them, so they do not pose a great danger to the newborn.

When a second pregnancy occurs, the woman’s blood is sensitized (previously Rhesus-positive red blood cells have got into her), therefore, the number of antibodies in it increases. Then they can get to the baby, passing through the placenta, and significantly harm, destroying the fetal red blood cells.

With a new pregnancy (when the baby is “positive”), the possibility of serious pathologies increases, as the number of antibodies in the mother’s blood increases.
In the high-risk group, women who have previously suffered:

cesarean section;
ectopic pregnancy.
What a Rh factor will be in a child cannot be said in advance without complex genetic studies. If both mom and dad are “positive”, with a probability of 25% in a newborn, Rh is negative.

With different rhesus of the mother and father, the chances of having a baby with Rh + and Rh– are fifty to fifty. Finally, the “negative” father and mother will also have a baby with a negative Rhesus.

Rhesus conflict threatens pregnancy
Rhesus conflict occurs when the mother has Rh– and the fetus has Rh +. What can happen if a man is Rh-positive, with only half the cases.
Rhesus conflict – what is the danger?
For the woman herself, her health the Rhesus conflict does not bear immediate danger. It threatens the course of pregnancy – premature birth, miscarriage are possible.

But for the baby, the consequences of a Rhesus conflict with a pregnant mother can be very serious.

Maternal antibodies, having got into the baby’s blood, cause gluing and death of red blood cells with the release of an extremely toxic substance – bilirubin. It is he who gives the yellow color of the skin of the newborn.

But bilirubin is dangerous not only jaundice. Penetrating into the brain tissue, it disrupts the brain and central nervous system.

With the destruction of red blood cells, the fetus experiences hypoxia – the tissues lack oxygen.

To make up for its shortage, the body produces blood cells in other organs – the liver, kidneys.

With a Rhesus conflict, a complication of jaundice of the skin may develop
Metabolism is impaired, protein production is reduced. This causes fluid retention and the formation of edema, which compresses the blood vessels, interfering with the metabolism and contributing to the accumulation of its products in the body. All this disrupts the work of literally every organ of the fetus.

The most harmless complication that the Rh conflict in the newborn gives is yellowness of the skin and a slight increase in the spleen and liver. Usually it goes without consequences.
The more severe consequence of the Rh conflict of the fetus and mother during pregnancy is hemolytic disease of the newborn.
Damage to the central nervous system causes nuclear jaundice.
How to suspect that a Rhesus conflict is developing?
The mother usually has no symptoms of Rhesus conflict – women feel quite normal.

Changes can be seen in the fetus by ultrasound:

the spleen and liver are enlarged;
the baby’s tummy is enlarged and the legs are divorced;
the number of placental vessels is more than normal;
placenta and umbilical vein enlarged;
as a result of edema, two head contours are visible.
The main indicator of a developing Rh conflict is the detection of antibodies in maternal blood and, most importantly, an increase in their concentration. It is especially dangerous if their content increases sharply.

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