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Rhesus negative blood group in pregnant women a health concern to the unborn baby

<p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">​Ante-natal care is important for all pregnant women regardless of the state of their health and it is very strongly advisable for an expectant mother who has rhesus negative blood group. The first visit to a doctor or a clinic during pregnancy will include a blood group check as part of preparation for the birth of a baby.

The vast majority of people are rhesus positive (Rh+), but a small minority are rhesus negative (Rh-). Anyone needing a blood transfusion should receive blood from the same group as his, or her own to avoid a reaction to the “foreign blood”.

Dr Alfred Murage, a consultant obstetrician gynaecologist at Aga Khan University Hospital, emphasises the need for a rhesus negative expectant woman to receive careful attention for her to give birth to a healthy baby. He said, “During pregnancy, or birth, there could be a cross-over of the baby’s blood cells into the mother’s bloodstream. This is a normal occurrence which becomes significant for a woman with Rh- blood if her baby has Rh+ blood derived from the father.”

“Fortunately, medical science has developed the means to minimize the problems which might be caused by the mix of incompatible blood. Doctors have availed an injection of Rh antibodies in the form of ‘anti-D immunoglobulin’. A woman with Rh- blood will receive ‘anti-D’ injections during the 28th week of pregnancy and after the birth of her baby.”

“A recent case of a fist time mother in her late twenties was referred to my antenatal clinic at 28 weeks of pregnancy. Upon conducting a blood screen, she was found to have rhesus negative blood group. We instituted measures to manage her condition by introducing anti-D immunoglobulin which covered her up to the 40th week when she delivered.

“After delivery, we tested the baby’s blood and confirmed it to be Rh+. This justified giving the mother another anti-D injection after the delivery, thereby ensuring further protection for subsequent pregnancies.”

He added, “The unusual example of the problems which can affect a pregnant Rh- woman highlights the importance of timely medical attention which is available at hospitals and clinics. In addition to the ante-natal clinic at the Aga Khan University Hospital, patients can receive follow-up care and monitoring in our outreach clinics spread around Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.”

These facilities offer a spectrum of women services including gynaecology consultation, ante-natal care, fertility, abnormal uterine bleeding, pelvic masses and pelvic pain, Pap smear screening, family planning options and ultrasound services.

Children of all ages also benefit from clinics run by pediatrician to give the best medical care the hospital can provide. Services include; vaccination, growth monitoring, advice on nutrition, and examination for common diseases. Well baby programmes designed to monitor the baby’s growth through a series of wellness check-ups for new born and infants are also offered.

The medical centres serve as ‘satellite’ clinics to the main Aga Khan University Hospital campus in Parklands, Nairobi. Patients seen at the main hospital can also carry on with continued care at the outreach centres close to their homes.

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