What Happens When You Get a RhoGAM Shot During Pregnancy

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RhoGAM shot during pregnancy

RhoGAM shot is a sterilized solution, which is made up of human blood plasma. It is used by the medical professionals to help prevent an immune response to Rhesus positive in people who are Rhesus negative. The RhoGAM, which stands for RhoD immune globulin human, is normally administered to Rh negative mothers in the form of an injection.

RhoGAM is also used in the treatment of other ailments such as Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). This injection is normally generic and should only be administered by a medical professional. In order to understand fully what this drug is and what it can do, we need to know what Rhesus factor is.

What Is Rh Factor?

Blood bag with label different blood group ABO and Rh systemRh factor which is the short term for Rhesus factor is an immunogenic protein that every human can or cannot have. A person either has or doesn’t have Rh on the surface of their red blood cells. Many people, however, have this component which is attached to their red blood cells. This translates into one having a positive/plus added to their blood group type like; A+, B+. On the other hand, a person who does not have the Rhesus factor will have their blood denoted with a negative like B- or A-.

Rh factor, however only refers to D antigen, which is the most immunogenic of the Rh blood group system. This, therefore, means that Rh+ means that a group type has the D antigen while Rh- means it is absent. It is, however, important to note that there are several other antigens that make up the Rhesus blood group system and which are very important especially clinically.

If a woman becomes pregnant and happens to be Rh- she has no other option but to get a RhoGAM injection. This is done to protect her from their unborn baby. While there is no problem with a mother being Rh- and the fetus being Rh+, the mother’s body will start producing antibodies to fight the Rh+ when their blood mixes with that of the unborn.

Interestingly, the antibodies created by the mother’s body will not in any way affect the first baby. However, subsequent pregnancies will find an already armed mother’s body with deadly antibodies which will make their survival low. These antibodies are meant to destroy all the Rh+ blood cells.

Once the antibodies act on the Rh+ blood cells, fetal anemia might happen. This, in turn, causes a serious condition called hydrops fetalis. Some of the symptoms of this condition include internal bleeding, kidney as well as heart failure, and shock.

[Read more about Anemia]

RhoGAM Shot During Pregnancy

RhoGAM shot and Pregnancy
Source: http://www.ageofautism.com/

Whenever an Rh- blood type is exposed to Rh+ blood, a shot must be taken. This often happens during blood transfusions and in pregnancies. For pregnant women who are Rh-, an injection is not necessary to be administered until the 28th week of pregnancy. Another injection should be taken 72 hours after delivery.

During subsequent pregnancies, regular shots should be administered. Such shots should be administered on the second half of the pregnancy by a medical professional. Moreover, if by any misfortune a pregnant mother miscarriages, she should immediately get this shot to prevent future pregnancy complications. This should also be the case in case of an abortion.

When a woman becomes pregnant, it is vital that they establish the blood type of the father. This is to help them know of the possibility of their unborn baby being Rhesus negative or positive. At birth, the mother should find out what blood type their baby is. This will help them know whether their future pregnancies will need to be protected with a RhoGAM shot. The final thing to do is prevent the blood of the mother and that of a newly born baby from mixing. A good way to avoid the blood from mixing is by having a natural birth. 

How RhoGAM Works?

Normally, vaccinations are meant to introduce a very small amount of a virus or bacteria into the body of a person. The number of such viruses should be so minimal as to not cause any illness. This helps the body learn to fight the virus. In effect, this means that if such a virus infects the body in the future in a larger scale, the body will have mastered a way to fight it. This is exactly the how the RhoGAM negative shot works.

This shot contains antibodies to Rh+ and which are designed and meant to cause any harm on the bloodstream of the fetus. Once the mother’s body detects these antibodies, it reacts as though it had previously dealt with them before. This means that the body won’t produce antibodies to fight the fetal Rh+ during pregnancy. Whenever this injection is taken during the first pregnancy, a mother’s body gets enough sensitization of the Rh disparity that might arise in their subsequent pregnancies. 

The Side Effects Associated With RhoGAM

Pregnant woman taking RhoGAM shot in clinic
Source: https://www.whattoexpect.com/

Just like most drugs, RhoGAM has some side effects in most people. It is important that a person first establishes whether they will more or severe side effects than the next person. The only way to establish this is by asking for advice from your doctor. A doctor will need to know all the prescriptions and over the counter drugs that you are using. Because one never knows what can and cannot react with RhoGAM, it is important that no omission of current drugs being used be made. Any vitamins, minerals or herbal medicines should be considered as drugs. Below are some of the common side effects experienced a majority of people. The list is not conclusive as certain people’s bodies will not react as expected.

  • A feeling of shortness of breath or rapid breathing.
  • Urinating less frequently and at times not at all. Urine can be dark. This can also be accompanied by swelling or gaining weight rapidly.
  • Shaking, chills, and back pain.
  • A pale skin which is easy to bruise and susceptible to bleeding.
  • Feeling light-headed and lack of concentration.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pains.

The following are the less serious side effects which are pretty common.

  • Pain and discomfort from the injection needle. The injection area might feel a bit tender.
  • Headaches and dizziness.
  • Joint and/or muscle pain.
  • A general feeling of tiredness and weakness.
  • Skin rash and/or mild itching.
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains.

After the administration of RhoGAM shot of 300 mcg, which is the usual dosage, adverse events rarely get reported. The most commonly reported adverse events are in relation to the anti-D formation which comprises of redness, swelling, induration and mild pain at the point of injection. It is extremely rare for a person to experience systematic allergic reactions to this injection. It is also worthwhile to note that since this drug was introduced, there has never been any fatality arising from it.

In case a patient exhibits any of these allergic reaction signs, medical attention should be sought immediately: feeling lightheaded, hives or rash, difficulty breathing, chest tightness and swelling of the face, throat or tongue. Medical attention should also be sought in the case of the aforementioned first list of reactions. Professional medical help should always be sought whenever the mild symptoms persist. 

Common Questions That People Ask Frequently

Q – Why is my Rh Type Tested When I am Pregnant?

A – Testing a mother’s Rh type is critical during pregnancy. This is to establish the risk of the baby having the Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn (HDN). This condition arises when the antibodies in Rh- blood type mother’s body cross over through the placenta into the baby and kill Rh+ red blood cells. A medical doctor will know when to give RhoGAM injection to help prevent this condition.

Q – Why is ABO Type Testing Necessary During Pregnancy?RH-conflict pregnant

A – A mother whose blood type is O will normally have antibodies which work against blood type A and B. This inconsistency between a mother’s blood and the child’s can cause HDN. Though Rhesus factor testing and ABO testing are not related, a doctor will normally conduct the tests together for the protection of the mother and child.

Q – What are the Other Reasons Why Rh Testing is Done?

A – When medical experts are preparing for a blood transfusion, blood screening is essential to ensure that the recipient’s and the donor’s Rh are compatible. This is also done in the case of transplantation of organs. The Rhesus factor is also used in forensic investigations.

Q – What is RhoGAM?

A – It is an advanced sterile solution which is made from blood plasma. In is injected in Rh- pregnant mothers.

Q – What are the Chances that my Blood is Rhesus Negative?

A – It is not very common to find a person whose Rhesus is negative. However, medical statistics show that approximately 15% of Caucasians are Rh-. Africans who are Rh- are between 5-8%, Asians are about 2%.

Q – What is the Origin of Rh-?

A – It is important to first note that while Rh- is quite rare it is not uncommon than finding a person with white hair or bald. There are myths about the Rh- coming from the humans having relations with the gods. The truth of the matter is that Rh- or Rh+ is all a matter of DNA; nothing more.

Q – Can the Antibodies that my Body Produces Harm my Baby?

A – Yes. Pregnant mothers who are Rh- and are carrying babies who are Rh+ pose a threat to the baby because their immune system produces antibodies against their baby’s red blood cells. Some of the repercussions of this include the baby getting anemia, jaundice and in serious cases heart failure. This condition is called Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn.

When Should You Not Use RhoGAM?RhoGAM shot during pregnancy

It is necessary to seek medical advice whenever one becomes pregnant to determine whether they need to be injected with this drug. It is also very important to disclose all medical history to the doctor so that proper medication and informed advice is given. Below are the instances which will make a person not get the injection.

  • Any person who is allergic to any ingredient found in RhoGAM should not use it.
  • Any person who has anti-immunoglobulin a (lgA) antibodies.
  • A person who had in the past had an allergic reaction to any human immune globulins or other blood products should not get a RhoGAM shot.
  • For a person whose spleen has been removed or if they have been tested before and found to be RhoD negative.
  • A person who has anemia or bleeding problems.
  • Live vaccines such as those for measles and rubella can be affected by RhoGAM. Their effectiveness might be reduced by this injection.
  • Mothers who are breastfeeding should first consult with their doctor to determine how safe it is for the baby.

Safety Information on the Use of RhoGAM

Much as one can read about RhoGAM treatments and other advantages from books and the internet, it is wise to always seek professional medical advice before using it. In any case, this is supposed to be a prescription drug. This drug should not be used by any other person besides the one to whom it was prescribed to. A single person’s dosage should not be shared. In case there is some medicine unused which is no longer needed, a patient should ask their doctor on the best way to dispose of.

RhoGAM should be kept by a medical expert. In the circumstances where it needs to be kept at home, the instructions of the health giver should be followed. However, such medicine should generally be kept in dry areas and away from pets and children. Where there is a case of an overdose, medical help should be given priority. Some of the symptoms that indicate that a person has taken an overdose of RhoGAM shot include yellowing of eyes and/or skin, dark urine, and unusual tiredness.

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