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Rh Sensitization During Pregnancy - Treatment Overview

If you are sensitized to the Rh factor

If your blood is Rh-negative and you have been sensitized to Rh-positive blood, you now have antibodies to Rh-positive blood. The antibodies kill Rh-positive red blood cells. If you become pregnant with an Rh-positive baby (fetus), the antibodies can destroy your fetus's red blood cells. This can cause anemia.

If you are already Rh-sensitized and are pregnant, your treatment will focus on preventing or minimizing fetal harm and on avoiding early (preterm) delivery.

Treatment options depend on how well or poorly the fetus is doing.

  • If testing shows that your fetus is Rh-positive but is only mildly affected by your Rh factor antibodies, you will be closely watched until your pregnancy reaches term. Your fetus will be delivered early only if his or her condition gets worse.
  • If testing shows that your fetus is moderately affected by your Rh antibodies, your fetus's condition will be closely watched until his or her lungs are mature enough for a preterm delivery. A cesarean section may be used to deliver the baby quickly or to avoid the difficulty of inducing labor before term. A moderately affected newborn sometimes needs a blood transfusion immediately after birth.
  • If testing shows that your fetus is severely affected by your Rh factor antibodies, a blood transfusion may be given before birth (intrauterine fetal blood transfusion). This can be done through the fetus's abdomen or directly into the fetus's umbilical cord. A preterm delivery is likely to be needed. Multiple blood transfusions are sometimes needed to keep a fetus healthy until the fetal lungs mature enough to function after birth. Often a cesarean section is done to deliver the baby quickly. A blood transfusion is sometimes needed immediately after birth.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 24, 2013
    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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