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Birth Injury: Rh Incompatibility

Becoming pregnant can be one of the most wonderful experiences in a couple’s life. But because it is such an exciting time, many expectant parents probably do not give much thought to the blood tests their obstetricians order during the early weeks of pregnancy. However, those tests are important because they should, if appropriately done, determine a key thing about the mother – her blood factor. Armed with that small bit of medical information, doctors can avoid a potentially life-threatening condition called Rh incompatibility.

Rh incompatibility is a condition that occurs when a mother’s blood reacts defensively to her unborn infant’s blood. Generally, the mother and baby’s bloods do not mix during pregnancy. However, sometimes red blood cells from the baby can cross into the mother’s blood through the placenta. If their blood factors are incompatible, the mother’s immune system will treat the baby’s blood as a foreign substance and begin developing antibodies against it. If undetected, these complications can result in mild to severe birth injuries for newborns.

Rh Incompatibility and Your Newborn

Doctors separate blood factors into two categories – positive and negative – based on whether a person’s red blood cells have a particular protein (called an antigen) that stimulates an immune response in the body and leads to the production of antibodies. Those who have the antigen are Rh-positive, while those who do not are Rh-negative.

An Rh incompatibility occurs when a mother is Rh-negative and her unborn child is Rh-positive. If the bloods mix in utero, the Rh-negative mother’s body will react as though she is allergic to the baby, and her immune system will begin producing antibodies. These antibodies may cross back over the placenta and begin to destroy a baby’s circulating red blood cells.

Although Rh incompatibility was once a leading cause of blood-related deaths among newborns, today’s medical innovations have made the condition easily preventable. If a mother is Rh-negative or the father is Rh-positive or his blood factor cannot be confirmed, doctors can now give a special injection called Rhogam to prevent the development of antibodies against the child.

However, if a medical professional fails to diagnose the disorder, an Rh incompatibility can cause life-threatening risks to infants – not only the one the mother carries immediately, but also ones she might carry in the future. In fact, sometimes only the future children are injured because it takes a long time for antibodies to build up in the body.

There are several symptoms that might indicate an Rh incompatibility even if initial blood tests were not done to confirm the mother’s blood factor. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, possible signs of an Rh incompatibility might include:

  • Increased amount of amniotic fluid: This is called polyhydramnios.
  • Positive direct Coombs’ test result: The Coombs’ test checks for antibodies that cause premature red blood cell destruction.
  • Higher amount of bilirubin in umbilical cord: Bilirubin is a pigment that occurs naturally in the blood and aids in breaking down red blood cells.
  • Signs of red blood cell destruction in infant’s blood: This is called hemolytic anemia.

Potential birth injuries that result from an untreated Rh incompatibility can range from mild to fatal:

  • Mild injuries: Might include jaundice, low muscle tone and lethargy.
  • Severe injuries: Might include stillbirth, heart failure, a brain syndrome called kernicterus as a result of high bilirubin levels, fluid buildup in the body, seizures and other movement or cognitive impairments.

Have You Been Injured? Call Our Rh-Incompatibility Lawyers Today

If your baby suffered as a result of an undetected or untreated Rh incompatibility during your pregnancy and delivery, you may have a claim against your medical practitioner. The birth injury attorneys at The Stroble Law Firm, P.C. can review your case and advise you of possible legal remedies.

Call the Michigan medical malpractice attorneys at 313-438-4357, or contact us online for a free evaluation of your claim. If there is no recovery in your case, there is no fee for our services.