What is the Rhogam Shot and What do I Need to Know About it?
Rhogam is a brand name for a shot of Rh immunoglobulin (RhIg). Before we talk about why some women need this shot before delivery or after a miscarriage or abortion, let’s talk about what the Rh factor is.
You’ve probably heard about blood types, like type A and type B. But everyone’s blood also has a Rh factor. The Rh factor is a protein that can be on the surface of the red blood cells. Either you have the protein and you’re Rh positive (Rh+), or you don’t have the protein and you’re Rh negative (Rh-). So when you see your blood type, it’s always what type of blood you have first and then + or – to indicate the Rh, for example, A+, A-, B+, B-, and etc..
How do we get the Rh factor?
We inherit it through our genes. If both parents are Rh-, their baby will be Rh-. If the mother is Rh- and the father is Rh+, then the baby could be either.
How could the Rh factor cause problems during pregnancy?
The problem comes if the mom is Rh- and the baby is Rh+. And it most likely won’t be a problem in a first pregnancy. But it can become a problem in later pregnancies.
If mom’s Rh- blood comes into contact with the baby’s Rh+, the mom’s body automatically makes antibodies against the Rh positive factor. The Mom’s body senses something foreign and is trying to protect itself by making these antibodies. When our bodies make antibodies, their purpose is to attack and destroy. Usually this is helpful when our bodies do this for things like colds and flu’s but in this case it can have adverse effects on further pregnancies.
The mom and baby don’t share a blood system during pregnancy, but sometimes the mom’s blood and baby’s blood could mix. This could happen during certain invasive medical tests, during delivery, during a miscarriage or an abortion.
If a mom’s Rh- blood mixes with a baby’s Rh+ blood during any of those situations, the mom’s body will create Rh antibodies. Then in future pregnancies, if Mom has another Rh+ baby, the antibodies in the mom’s body will cross the placenta and attack the new baby’s Rh+ blood. The baby’s blood won’t have enough oxygen, and the developing baby will suffer serious illness or even death.
So how does the RhIg (Rhogam) shot solve the problem?
First, your doctor will do a blood test to see if you are Rh positive or negative and if you have developed Rh antibodies. Then, if you are Rh- and have not developed antibodies, your doctor will give you a shot of RhIg (Rhogam). This Rhogam shot prevents the mom from making antibodies against the Rh factor, so the mom’s body won’t attack the blood of any future babies.
If you have a miscarriage or abortion, make sure to ask your medical provider whether you are Rh positive or negative and if you need the Rhogam shot.
If you are Rh- and your body has already made antibodies against the Rh factor, a Rhogam shot will not work. In that case, your doctor will closely monitor any future pregnancies and keep a close eye on your baby’s development.
Do you have more questions?
A member of our medical staff would be happy to talk with you. Call us to set up a confidential appointment at no cost to you.