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Rh Sensitization During Pregnancy - Topic Overview

If you have Rh-negative blood but are not Rh-sensitized, your doctor will give you one or more shots of Rh immune globulin (such as RhoGAM). This prevents Rh sensitization in about 99 women out of 100 who use it.1

You may get a shot of Rh immune globulin:

  • If you have a test such as an amniocentesis.
  • Around week 28 of your pregnancy.
  • After delivery if your newborn is Rh-positive.

The shots only work for a short time, so you will need to repeat this treatment each time you get pregnant. (To prevent sensitization in future pregnancies, Rh immune globulin is also given when an Rh-negative woman has a miscarriage, abortion, or ectopic pregnancy.)

The shots won't work if you are already Rh-sensitized.

If you are Rh-sensitized, you will have regular testing to see how your baby is doing. You may also need to see a doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies (a perinatologist).

Treatment of the baby is based on how severe the loss of red blood cells (anemia) is.

  • If the baby's anemia is mild, you will just have more testing than usual while you are pregnant. The baby may not need any special treatment after birth.
  • If anemia is getting worse, it may be safest to deliver the baby early. After delivery, some babies need a blood transfusion or treatment for jaundice.
  • For severe anemia, a baby can have a blood transfusion while still in the uterus. This can help keep the baby healthy until he or she is mature enough to be delivered. You will most likely have an early C-section, and the baby may need to have another blood transfusion right after birth.

In the past, Rh sensitization was often deadly for the baby. But improved testing and treatment mean that now most babies with Rh disease survive and do well after birth.

Learning about Rh sensitization during pregnancy:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

Living with Rh sensitization:

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 20, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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