When a mother is Rh negative and her baby is Rh positive, this is called Rh incompatibility. Blood that is Rh positive possesses an Rh factor, which refers to a specific type of antigen. Your Rh factor doesn’t affect your health overall. However, it does have an impact on the mother and baby during pregnancy. When Rh incompatibility exists, the body of the mother may reject the blood of the baby as if it were a foreign substance and thus create antibodies to fight against it.
The condition of Rh incompatibility can occur if the baby’s father is Rh positive. The Rh factor of an individual is simply a genetic trait. It is not possible to medically control whether or not a person will inherit this trait.
Health complications from Rh incompatibility
When Rh incompatibility is present, antibodies from the mother’s body attack the baby’s red blood cells. This can cause serious harm to the baby, including the development of a condition referred to as hemolytic anemia. This condition occurs when an insufficient amount of hemoglobin is contained in the baby’s blood cells. Under the worst circumstances, hemolytic anemia can be fatal. Additional complications to the baby resulting from Rh incompatibility can include brain damage, lethargy and low muscle tone, jaundice, physical and cognitive function issues, and fluid buildup and swelling.
Rh incompatibility treatment and prevention
Although Rh incompatibility is a life-threatening condition, it is also entirely preventable. RhoGAM is a form of immunoglobulin provided to the mother who is diagnosed as Rh negative. This medication eliminates the Rh positive cells from the baby’s bloodstream before the mother’s body can recognize and reject them. Rh negative mothers generally only need one shot, given around week 28. It is the responsibility of the prenatal care provider to diagnose Rh incompatibility early enough and treat it with RhoGAM in order to prevent the health complications mentioned above.
If the mother’s Rh factor is not determined and treated before Rh incompatibility results, RhoGAM can still be administered. In some instances, the baby may be delivered before any serious complications occur. However, failure to act may lead to brain damage or even death.
Negligence resulting from failure to diagnose or treat
The failure of a prenatal care provider to conduct proper blood work and determine the mother’s Rh factor and any potential Rh incompatibility can leave this condition undiagnosed throughout the entire pregnancy. This involves a failure of the prenatal care provider to exercise his or her duty of care to the mother and baby and constitutes negligence. In these instances, a mother may pursue the recovery of damages in a medical malpractice or birth injury lawsuit for the harm caused to her child and the associated medical expenses and pain and suffering.
If your baby has been harmed during the course of prenatal care involving a failure to prevent or treat Rh incompatibility, Bailey & Greer, PLLC, can help. Our Memphis birth injury attorneys can evaluate your case to help you determine your legal options . To request a free, initial consultation in our Memphis or Jackson office, give us a call today at 901.475.7434 or use our contact form. We proudly represent families throughout West Tennessee.