You Got Antibodies in My Rhesus Factor!

Two events above all others in human experience hinge on blood type genetics: being near to death, and creating a new life.

Pregnancy truly is a delicate process, and I have to think that humanity’s joyous tribal intermingling has made the process just that much more fraught with peril.  The mother’s body has a plan for creating life that will mirror the path she took to get here; the baby has half of his own plan from a source that may not at all concur.  The result is that every pregnancy in this day and age, in this melting pot of genetics, marches to the beat of its own drummer. The greatest danger to any particular pregnancy can often be a stubborn adherence to an inappropriate doctrine.

Is it perhaps all the more rewarding for the species, then, when we (women) survive the process, and our babies survive to embody a brand new combination of genetics?  Humans are amazingly resilient and hardy — AFTER they are born.  It’s as if the creation of a new life is a crucible both for the mother and the child, a proving process, making sure baby is worthy of mama’s energy, and vice versa.

Months ago, I got a blood test result back of O negative.  All my life, however, I’ve been told I’m O positive.  I don’t think people’s bodies just stop producing Rh factor.  I did my homework, learned how to say “possible weak agglutinative for the Rh factor”, and had the test re-done.  Sure enough, I have no Rhesus factor in my blood.

What’s implied in this assessment: I could either make damn sure that the little boy in my womb is Rh-negative himself by doing a cord blood extraction, or I need to take a prophylactic intravenous medication called RhoGam to prevent the possibility of my immune system developing an antigen to the Rhesus factor either during or after birth, when mine and baby’s bloods may intermingle.

The consequence of NOT preventing such antigens from forming may not affect this little pumpkin at all, once he’s on the outside.  But if I ever conceived a child with Rh positive blood, I’d be likely to miscarry — to reject the body inside my body who is forming with the “wrong” plan.   It’s possible that Queen Catherine and Anne Boleyne were the most famous Rh negative women in history, each carrying one child who survived, and then miscarrying all following children conceived with King Henry.

There is also a chance I COULD severely harm this baby, in the very unusual but scary-enough-to-do-something-about case in which my blood comingles with fetal blood.  My body would then immediately become hostile to the foreign Rh antigens, generating antibodies that reach the baby and actually destroy fetal blood cells.  This is Rh Disease, and it used to be a leading cause of preterm death.

All of this means that I need two shots in the butt — one right about now (I’m at 29 weeks of pregnancy), and one right after this little boy is born.

Such morbid gravity over a genetic mutation.

I’ve started thinking about the cultural implications of a society like the Basques with their extremely high incidence of Rh negative that probably see quite a few perfectly fine first children and then extremely risky and tragic follow-up pregnancies.  Perhaps a topic for a future blog post.

Research and Entertainment:

Incidentally, I’ve also just learned that my father’s mother is O-negative, and my father — an only child — is AB positive…

Technorati Tags: , ,

Leave a comment

Your comment