Rh Antibody Screening?

What is an Rh antibody screening?
ByMichele Hakakha, MD
OB-GYN
Updated
Feb 2017
Hero Image

Each of us falls into one of four blood types: A, B, AB, or O. All of these blood types can either have a certain protein (called an antigen) on the surface of the red blood cells or not. If you do have this protein on your blood cells, you’re considered Rh-positive. If you do not have these proteins, you’re considered Rh-negative.

Why is this important?  Because if you’re Rh-negative, and your partner is Rh-positive, there’s a good chance your baby will now be Rh-positive, too. And that can become a problem, because your blood may start to make certain antibodies that attack those fetal blood cells. In other words, your body responds almost as if you were allergic to your baby’s blood.

Since there’s always an intermingling of your blood and baby’s, these antibodies can cross the placenta and attack baby’s blood, breaking down the red blood cells and causing anemia, or low blood cell count, which in turn can lead to some serious complications. The good news is, there are relatively easy ways to prevent this breakdown from every occurring.

Prevention starts by getting your blood (and your partner’s blood) tested with Rh antibody screening. Most of us (about 85%) are Rh positive to begin with. If you’re negative and your partner is positive, you may be given an injection of an Rh immunoglobulin, which can prevent your body from putting out the harmful antibodies. Keep in mind that this needs to be given with each pregnancy, and Rh-negative women should also receive treatment after a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or induced abortion to prevent the antibodies from developing for future pregnancies.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Related Video

Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik Have Welcomed a Baby Girl

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
09/24/2020

Pregnant Bindi Irwin Reveals She’s Expecting a Baby Girl

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
09/24/2020

These Are the Top Halloween Trends on Etsy for 2020

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
09/23/2020

These Are the Baby Deals You Don’t Want to Miss at the Way Day Sale

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
09/23/2020

Babies Born in the Fall May Be at Higher Risk of Allergic Diseases

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
09/22/2020

Mina Starsiak Hawk Gets Real About Postpartum Realities With a Diaper

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
09/22/2020

Jodie Turner-Smith Says Breast Milk Is the Key to Her Skincare Routine

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
09/21/2020

After Two Miscarriages, Penn Badgley and Wife Welcome First Child

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
09/21/2020

Toddler FaceTime Games That Boost Verbal Skills and Family Bonds

Jocelyn M. Wood, CCC-SLP
Speech language pathologist