When a mother and a baby have different Rh blood types -- the mother is Rh negative and the baby is Rh positive -- the condition is known as Rh incompatibility. While Rh incompatibility poses severe complications, the condition is not only treatable, but also entirely preventable. The following explores exactly what Rh incompatibility is and how it’s caused, Rh incompatibility complications, prevention, and treatment.
Understanding Rh Incompatibility and Its Causes
As explained above, Rh incompatibility occurs when the mother is Rh negative, and the baby is Rh positive. Rh-positive blood is blood that has an Rh factor, which is a certain type of antigen. While whether or not a person has an Rh factor seems to have no application in regard to a person’s health, it does affect mother and baby during pregnancy. When Rh incompatibility occurs, a mother’s body may reject the baby’s blood as a foreign substance, in turn, creating antibodies against it.
Rh incompatibility -- or the baby being Rh positive -- may occur if the father of the baby is Rh positive. Rh factor is simply a genetic trait, and controlling whether or not a person will inherit it is impossible.
Complications of Rh Incompatibility
When Rh incompatibility occurs, the mother’s antibodies attack the baby’s red blood cells. As a result, the baby can suffer serious harm, including a condition known as hemolytic anemia. This condition results when the baby’s blood cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin, which can be fatal when severe. Other complications of Rh incompatibility for the baby include jaundice, characterized by a yellowing of the skin, low muscle tone and lethargy, brain damage, fluid buildup and swelling, and cognitive and physical function complications.
Preventing and Treating Rh Incompatibility
Rh incompatibility is a scary condition. The good news is that Rh incompatibility is entirely preventable. While the Rh factor of the baby and mother cannot be controlled, RhoGAM makes preventing incompatibility possible. RhoGAM is a type of immunoglobulin that is given to a mother who is known to be Rh negative. The medication works by removing the Rh positive cells from the fetus’s bloodstream before the mother’s body can recognize -- and then begin rejecting -- them. Usually, only one shot is necessary for Rh-negative mothers in pregnancy, and it is typically given around week 28. If a prenatal care provider fails to diagnose Rh incompatibility early and treat a mother for it with RhoGAM, the baby may suffer as a result.
If a mother’s Rh factor is not recognized and treated early on before incompatibility occurs, a dose of RhoGAM still may be given. In some cases, the baby will be delivered before serious harm occurs. When no action is taken, though, the complications of Rh incompatibility, including brain damage or death, may occur. As such, nothing is more important that diligent prenatal care when preventing and treating Rh incompatibility.
Prenatal Care Provider Negligence for Failure to Diagnose or Treat
If a prenatal care provider does not conduct proper blood work, then the mother’s Rh factor and potential Rh incompatibility may go undiagnosed throughout the duration of the pregnancy. When this occurs, the prenatal care provider has failed to exercise his or her duty of care to the patient and instead has acted negligently, or outside of what’s considered reasonable for a healthcare professional. As such, the mother can file a lawsuit for damages to recover compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and harm caused to her child.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today to Learn More about Negligence
If you believe that harm to your baby could have been prevented had your prenatal care provider acted more diligently to protect against Rh incompatibility, call the attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC today. We’ll review your claim for free to see if you have a case. Dial 215-642-2335 to set up your first appointment now.