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Blood Incompatibility during Pregnancy: Understanding Risks and Solutions

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

In a previous conversation with Dr. Dickens Lubanga, a Pediatrician in Bungoma County, he emphasized the critical importance of pre-marriage blood tests. According to him, these tests play a pivotal role in confirming factors such as sickle cell carrier status and blood type compatibility. While I comprehended the significance of identifying sickle cell traits, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the potential repercussions if a couple chooses to disregard these tests.

A recent incident involving my close friend Jane deeply impacted me. Tragically, she lost her pregnancy at eight months, with the unborn child inexplicably passing away within the womb. The child should have had a fighting chance outside the womb, possibly requiring minimal support from an incubator.

The explanation provided by the doctor was truly startling. “The child’s demise occurred due to blood incompatibility between the mother and the fetus,” he clarified. This left me contemplating the implications of this situation and how it tragically resulted in a heartbreaking miscarriage.

Subsequent online research uncovers the substantial threat that blood incompatibility poses to the health of newborns. Seeking a more profound comprehension of this issue and potential solutions, I revisited Dr. Lubanga for further insights.

Dr. Lubanga sheds light on this crucial topic. “Blood Incompatibility affects couples during pregnancy. It arises when the blood types of the couple do not align, potentially leading to complications. A common scenario occurs when the mother has Rh-negative blood, and the father has Rh-positive blood. This situation can lead to Rh incompatibility, affecting the unborn child in various ways,” he explains.

As children often inherit the father’s Rh factor, Dr. Lubanga elaborates that when a Rh-negative mother carries a Rh-positive baby, there is a risk that her immune system may generate antibodies against the baby’s Rh factor. This commonly occurs during childbirth or if there is any bleeding while pregnant. When the blood of the mother and child come into contact, the mother’s body perceives the child’s blood as a foreign substance to be fought.

Subsequently, the mother’s produced antibodies can harm the red blood cells of future pregnancies with Rh-positive blood, leading to hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN). HDN destroys the fetus’s red blood cells, resulting in anemia and other complications. The severity of HDN varies based on factors such as antibody production, gestational age, and pregnancy count. In severe cases, it can even result in organ failure and death.

Solutions for Blood Incompatibility

Dr. Lubanga assures that medical advancements have paved the way for managing blood incompatibility during pregnancy. He presents two strategies to address this issue:

The first strategy involves the administration of Rh Immunoglobulin (RhIg) to prevent Rh-negative mothers carrying a Rh-positive fetus from producing antibodies. Given around the 28th week of pregnancy and within 72 hours post-delivery or any event causing maternal-fetal blood mixing, RhIg suppresses antibody production. This significantly diminishes the risk of HDN in subsequent pregnancies.

The second strategy is Early Delivery or Induction. In cases where the risk of severe HDN is high or complications arise, early delivery or induction might be recommended. This ensures timely medical intervention and proper management of the newborn’s condition outside the womb.

Dr. Lubanga emphasizes the importance of blood tests before embarking on the journey to parenthood. These tests prepare a couple for the path ahead, including potential treatments for the condition. “Consistent prenatal care and consultation with healthcare professionals throughout the pregnancy are crucial. By taking these precautions, couples dealing with blood incompatibility can effectively minimize or manage its effects on their unborn child,” concludes Dr. Lubanga.

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