The Truth Behind the Anti-Rh Shot

Articles / October 4, 2016

The Anti-Rh (Anti-D) shot is an injected vaccination given to all pregnant women with Rh negative blood. The recent shortage of this shot and the hunt for it forces us to look at the truth behind it and whether or not the shot is as essential as healthcare providers hail it to be.

First of all, what is the Rh factor? While everyone commonly gets their primary blood type identified as either A, B, O, or AB; a person’s blood is further classified as either Rh positive or Rh negative. The Rh factor is a protein that may or may not be present on the surface of an individual’s red blood cells; it is an inherited trait, with Rh positive being the dominant gene.

When a woman who is Rh negative becomes pregnant, there is a slim chance of complications if the fetus she is carrying is Rh positive. This risk arises only if there is mixing of blood between the mother and fetus. Under normal circumstances, this never occurs, but in the event of a car accident or trauma to the mother’s belly, some mixing of blood is possible. Mixing may also occur if there is a miscarriage, amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling (CVS), or birth interventions during the birth process.

In the unlikely event that mixing does occur, the mother’s Rh negative blood would come in contact with the Rh protein from her Rh positive child’s blood and develop antibodies against it, a process known as sensitization. On this first instance, no harm to the baby occurs; however, upon subsequent encounters, some of these antibodies from the mother’s blood could get into the blood stream of the fetus and attack its red blood cells causing Rh disease, which puts the child at risk of stillbirth. Babies born with severe Rh disease require intensive treatment to survive.

Anti-D is a vaccine-like globulin shot developed in the late 1960s to keep Rh negative women from becoming sensitized to the Rh positive blood of their fetus in the unlikely case that their blood is ever mixed. The shot works very much like an immunization, putting a small amount of Rh antibody into the mother’s blood to trick it into thinking the foreign Rh protein has been eliminated. For the shot to work effectively though, it should be administered within 72 hours of blood mixing.

The fact that there is no way of knowing during a 40 week gestation when/if any blood mixing occurred unless there is a direct trauma, is proof enough that the completely arbitrary Anti-D shot at 28 weeks gestation (and again at 36 weeks with some doctors) makes no sense at all. Furthermore, some doctors recommend that all Rh negative women get the Anti-D shot during pregnancy even if the father is Rh negative as well, which is completely unnecessary since there is no possibility of Rh negative parents giving birth to a child with Rh positive blood antigen!

Besides being uncalled for in most cases, there is a further risk of putting Rh antibodies into the mother’s bloodstream during gestation since the antibodies hang around in the mother’s bloodstream for up to 12 weeks following the shot, as a result, if blood mixing does occur during that period of time, it is possible for some of the antibodies to find their way into the fetus’ bloodstream and attack them causing the very Rh disease in the fetus that the shot was supposed to prevent.

The possibility of side effects from the shot itself also exists, which includes swelling, inflammation, hives and even anaphylactic shock.

In the past, it used to be that Anti-D was only given after an Rh positive child was born (typed via cord blood after birth), if there was some birth intervention that made blood mixing a strong possibility, or if an accident or trauma occurred during pregnancy. Recently, however, prenatal Anti-D shots have become routine and arbitrary for all Rh negative women regardless of their partner’s Rh status and despite any pre-birth trauma or birth intervention; all a means to increase profits for pharmaceutical companies and clinics.

So if a mother is pregnant and happens to have Rh negative blood, what should ideally be done? Firstly, the most important question to answer would be whether or not the father is Rh positive. If not, then there is absolutely no need for the Anti-D shot. In case the father carries Rh positive blood, a routine Anti-D shot during pregnancy should also be declined, since there is no protection to the current baby from the shot during the pregnancy, unless some sort of trauma occurs where blood mixing occurs.  Lastly, the Anti-D shot may be called for after birth if labor was induced, or an epidural, C-section or other birth intervention was applied, which would have greatly increased the chance of blood mixing between mother and baby. Despite having an Rh positive father, a baby may still be born with Rh negative blood, thus the baby’s cord blood should be typed first before considering an Anti-D shot. If birth was natural, with no induction or intervention of any kind where the placenta was permitted to detach naturally from the uterus, then the Anti-D shot after birth is clearly unnecessary.

Are there some natural measures to take to help prevent blood from mixing between mother and fetus? Sure! Drinking red raspberry and nettle tea throughout pregnancy and especially during the last trimester to help tone the uterus and keep it strong, reducing the chance of any blood mixing during birth. Also, ensuring that no fluoridated water or nonorganic tea (high fluoride content) is consumed during pregnancy since fluoride has been shown to interfere with collagen production, which functions to attach the placenta to the uterus firmly.

The Anti-D shot has recently reappeared on the Egyptian market as the brand-name product RhoGam, produced by Johnson & Johnson, and should be available in most pharmacies now.

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