Antibodies in Pregnancy

Blood types are either A, B, AB, or O, and Rh positive or negative. A pregnant woman should know her blood type. This is because both the mother and her baby may experience problems if their blood types are different from each other, or if the mother has antibodies (antiglobulins) that react with antigens (proteins or factors) on the fetus' red blood cells. This may result in a serious condition referred to as Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn (HDN). The best known example is when an Rh-negative woman is pregnant with an Rh-positive baby. The woman's immune system can develop an antibody that attaches to the Rh-positive antigens on her fetus' red blood cells and target them for destruction. Although the first Rh-positive baby is unlikely to become ill, the antibodies produced during that first pregnancy will affect future Rh-positive babies. An antibody screen during the first trimester determines if potentially harmful antibodies are already present in the mother's blood. If a harmful antibody is detected, the baby's father should be tested, if possible, to see if his blood has antigens that react with the mother's antibody.

If it does react, then the fetus' may also. If the antibody could react with the fetus', the health care provider should monitor the mother's antibody level and the fetus for the duration of the pregnancy.

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