Pregnancy, testing, results, and treatment

Pregnancy, testing, results, and treatment
Written by Publishing Team

A negative Rhesus (Rh) test can have certain implications for a pregnancy. However, with the right medical care, people and their babies with Rh incompatibility can have a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.

Rh factor is an inherited protein that can appear on the surface of red blood cells.

Testing negative for Rh protein is not a problem in itself, but in some cases a pregnant person may have a different Rh status than their baby. Without proper care, this incompatibility could lead to medical problems during and after pregnancy.

This article discusses Rh-negative testing during pregnancy, results, risks and follow-ups.

Rh positive is the most common blood group, which means that a person’s red blood cells contain this protein. The rest of the population is Rh negative.

An Rh-negative person will not experience any health problems related to their blood type. However, there can be complications if they get pregnant with an Rh positive partner. In this scenario, the fetus may inherit Rh positive blood.

During pregnancy, the blood of the fetus can cross the placenta and enter the blood of the parents. With Rh incompatibility, this can cause an immune response that is harmful to the fetus or newborn baby. The parent’s immune system can recognize this blood as a foreign body and produce antibodies against the Rh positive blood.

Proper testing and care greatly reduces any risk for parents and children who have different Rh factors.

Healthcare professionals recommend an Rh test at the start of each pregnancy. Being aware of Rh incompatibility is crucial in minimizing potential risks.

Other recommended tests and screenings may include:

  • have regular antibody screening throughout pregnancy
  • test the Rh status of the other parent
  • determine the Rh status of the fetus by amniocentesis

Research has shown that Rh incompatibility is less problematic during a first pregnancy. In such cases, doctors may choose to rely on regular antibody testing. These can show if a pregnant person is producing too many antibodies.

Rh screening and antibody testing involve simple blood tests. These are usually quick and painless for both parents.

In some cases, a fetus may be at risk for anemia. Doctors can check for this condition using advanced ultrasound imaging. If a fetus shows signs of anemia, doctors can induce early childbirth or providing blood transfusions to the fetus.

Learn more about Rh factor testing here.

When tests reveal Rh incompatibility, it can pose a number of risks to the developing fetus.

Some more common risks after birth include:

If a pregnant person experiences Rh incompatibility, their immune system can attack the fetal blood. This can cause anemia if the fetus loses more blood cells than it can produce.

Because red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, this fetus may not receive enough oxygen. This could lead to jaundice of the newborn. It could also cause fluid to build up inside the fetus, which could cause other problems.

The presence of Rh incompatibility does not necessarily mean that a fetus will experience complications. There are many testing and treatment options available to prevent serious health problems.

Parental antibodies can be prevented early in pregnancy. If the antibodies cannot grow, they cannot impact the health of the growing fetus.

Doctors may suggest the following during pregnancy to prevent antibodies:


The most common way to stop these antibodies is Rh immunoglobulin. Doctors give this medicine as an injection and it prevents the development of antibodies in a pregnant person. This treatment program can prevent a fetus from developing anemia.

Research has shown that the first physicians this treatment, the better the result. Early testing to identify Rh incompatibility is crucial to start this treatment process.

Avoid fluid build-up

Researchers found that 24% of fetuses had fluid buildup without immunoglobulin treatment. This happened in only 4% of the pregnancies treated.

Regular screening for antibodies is essential in Rh incompatible pregnancies. Every pregnancy is unique, so individuals should consult a medical team to determine the treatment that is right for them.

Before childbirth, treatment with immunoglobulins may reduce symptoms of Rh incompatibility. In cases where this does not occur, a healthcare professional may recommend some of the following options:

Early delivery

Early delivery may be the best option for some cases of Rh incompatibility. Once the fetal lungs have developed, a healthcare professional may recommend inducing labor. This can help protect the baby from any further risk while it is still inside the womb.

Exchange transfusion

After childbirth, doctors might recommend an exchange transfusion. This process replaces the blood of a newborn baby with blood from a healthy donor. Exchange transfusion is especially useful for babies born with jaundice.


This treatment can also help treat jaundice in newborns. Light therapy exposes the baby to as much light as possible. This helps reduce the levels of bilirubin in the blood of a newborn baby.

There is no one treatment that will work for all Rh-incompatible pregnancies. Regular tests and check-ups with a doctor can help determine the most effective course of action for each parent and newborn.

Rh incompatibility is relatively rare during pregnancy. However, doctors recommend that all pregnant women have screenings and tests early in their pregnancy.

For people with Rh incompatibility, there are many testing and treatment options available. Regular antibody tests can be particularly important in preventing problems for both parent and baby.

With regular treatment, pregnant people with Rh incompatibility can have a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.


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