Although problems are less likely to occur in pregnancy these days thanks to advancements made in the medical community, we should still be aware of conditions that can occur. One such condition that may appear in pregnancy is incompatibility of the Rh factor. Along with the blood group (type A, B, O, AB) each individual has a negative or positive Rh factor. If the woman’s Rh factor is negative and the father’s is positive this equals a problem for the fetus.

Although the majority of people have Rh-positive blood a small percentage have an Rh-negative factor. The immune system produces antibodies to protect against harmful substances that enter the body. When there is an incompatibility in the Rh factor of the parents, the mother’s immune system will begin to produce antibodies. The mother’s body will view the baby as an invader. The antibodies attack the baby’s blood. Anemia can develop and if severe enough, brain damage or death may result. Consequently the situation could necessitate early delivery of the baby and blood transfusions with Rh-positive blood.

In the past this was a potentially lethal situation. Thankfully, it is now a relatively rare condition since it can be treated by injecting the mother with Rh immunoglobulin. All women should be tested early in pregnancy for the Rh incompatibility issue. If a pregnant woman is aware that she is Rh factor negative and the father is positive, she should discuss it with her physician as soon as possible. The physician will be able to answer any questions or concerns and allay the fears of the expectant mother.

One interesting note worth mentioning about blood types is the surprising amount of people who don’t even know their own blood type. It is amazing how many do not know the blood type of their own children or spouse, though not so much so when you consider the fact that they don’t know their own. It is important that everyone be aware of his or her blood type.

It is also a good idea to keep a record of your own medical history and that of your family for your own personal benefit. It should include blood types, congenital defects, hereditary conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. Your records should include health conditions of children, siblings, parents and grandparents. Do this for your spouse’s family as well. Make your record as detailed as you can. The more information you have about your family’s health, the better prepared you are to keep your family and yourself healthy.