If you’re a pregnant mom who is Rh negative, you may be given the RhoGAM shot. Learn more about what this shot is and if and when you might need it when pregnant.
Did your initial round of prenatal bloodwork reveal that you’re Rh negative? That could mean that you and your baby are Rh incompatible. In that caseyour doctor may suggest a shot of Rh immunoglobulin, commonly known in the US by the brand name RhoGAM, during pregnancy and after delivery.
While the term “Rh incompatibility” may sound serious, the treatment is simple and low risk. Here’s what to expect if you need a RhoGAM shot.
What is the Rh factor?
If you’ve ever gotten a blood test or given blood, you probably noticed the “+” or “–” at the end of your blood type. This symbol indicates whether or not the Rh factor is in your bloodstream (O+ blood, for instance, has the Rh factor, while O- blood does not).
Rh factor is a type of protein, or antigen, often found on the surface of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. But not everyone has it. If you carry the protein, you’re Rh positive. If you don’t, you’re Rh negative.
Not many people are Rh negative. Negative Rh factor occurs in around 15 percent of white people and between 4 percent and 8 percent of black people. In Asian people, the chances of being Rh negative are only around .3 percent.
Whether you’re Rh positive or negative doesn’t matter much, except when it comes to pregnancy. Being Rh negative if your baby is Rh positive could lead to complications and newborn health problems. The good news is that the problem is easy to treat with a RhoGAM shot.
What is Rh incompatibility?
Rh incompatibility happens when an expecting mom is Rh negative and her baby is Rh positive. If your baby’s blood comes into contact with yours during pregnancy or delivery, your body can build antibodies against the Rh factor, which can lead to complications in later pregnancies.
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What is RhoGAM?
RhoGAM is the injection used to treat Rh incompatibility during pregnancy.
The shot contains antibodies (collected from plasma donors) that stop your immune system from reacting to your baby’s Rh positive blood cells. In other words, it keeps you and your baby’s Rh incompatibility from causing any possible problems, should your blood types mix at any point during your pregnancy or delivery.
Like other shots, RhoGAM is injected into your arm or backside.
Do I need the RhoGAM shot during pregnancy?
Your doctor will test your Rh factor early on in pregnancy; if you’re negative, he’ll also test your partner. If your partner is Rh-positive, your doctor will recommend you get the RhoGAM shot.
Getting a RhoGAM shot is the best way to prevent any possible complications from Rh incompatibility. It protect your baby’s red blood cells from being attacked if her blood comes in contact with yours during labor and delivery, as well as prevents Rh-related complications from happening in later pregnancies.
Speaking of later pregnancies, if you’re Rh negative, it’s important to get the RhoGAM shot with each baby unless your provider says otherwise. (If it’s determined that your baby is Rh-negative too, you won’t need the shot.)
If you test Rh-positive, the shot isn’t necessary.
When should I get the RhoGAM shot?
If your doctor determines that you and your baby may be Rh-incompatible, you’ll get a shot of Rhogam when you’re between 26 and 28 weeks pregnant and then again within 72 hours after delivery to ensure that future pregnancies are as safe as the first.
If you undergo chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis, or if you experience bleeding during pregnancy or any trauma where you could be exposed to fetal cells, your doctor may give you the RhoGAM shot at another point in your pregnancy.
Do I need a RhoGAM shot after a miscarriage or chemical pregnancy?
The RhoGAM shot is a preventative measure against any time a fetus’ blood supply comes into contact with yours, which can happen if you have a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy — which is why your doctor may suggest a getting one if you test Rh-negative. You won’t, however, need a RhoGAM shot after a chemical pregnancy.
Are there side effects or risks of the RhoGAM shot?
The side effects associated with the RhoGAM shot are rare and mild. They may include:
- Soreness or rash at the infection site
- Mild fever
If you’re worried about the potential side effects, talk to your doctor about any concerns.
If you’re worried about getting RhoGAM because it is made from donated blood, keep in mind there’s minimal to no risk of contracting disease like AIDS or hepatitis because the donated blood is screened and treated. Know that the shot has saved hundreds of thousands of moms’ and babies’ lives.
Finding out that you and your baby may be Rh incompatible can be a little worrisome. But the RhoGAM shot is a safe, simple, and effective way to stave off any potential problems – both now and for future pregnancies too.
RhoGAM® Ultra-Filtered PLUS [Rho(D) Immune Globulin (Human)] (300 μg), is a prescription medicine given by intramuscular injection that is used to prevent Rh immunization, a condition in which an individual with Rh-negative blood develops antibodies after exposure to Rh-positive blood. MICRhoGAM® Ultra-Filtered PLUS [Rho(D) Immune Globulin (Human)] (50 μg) is a lower dose of Rho(D) immune globulin that is used in certain clinical situations.
If the father or baby is not conclusively shown to be Rh-negative, RhoGAM should be given to a Rh-negative mother in the following clinical situations to prevent Rh immunization:
- After delivery of an Rh-positive baby
- Routine prevention of Rh immunization at 26 to 28 weeks of pregnancy
- Maternal or fetal bleeding during pregnancy from certain conditions
- Actual or threatened pregnancy loss at any stage. MICRhoGAM should be used in Rh-negative women who experience pregnancy loss at or up to 12 weeks of pregnancy
- Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus)
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
RhoGAM or MICRhoGAM should NOT be used if you are Rh-positive or if you have had a severe allergic reaction to human immune globulin.
Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, including:
- If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction or a severe response to human immune globulin.
- If you have an immunoglobulin A (IgA) deficiency. RhoGAM and MICRhoGAM contain a small quantity of IgA and there is a potential risk of an allergic reaction in IgA-deficient individuals. Ask your healthcare provider if you are not sure.
- Your recent history of vaccinations. Certain types of vaccines (ones containing a live virus) may not work as well for you if you are also receiving immune globulin products like RhoGAM or MICRhoGAM. The antibodies in RhoGAM and MICRhoGAM may prevent the vaccine from working. Before you get a vaccine, tell your healthcare provider that you have received RhoGAM or MICRhoGAM.
Allergic reactions to RhoGAM or MICRhoGAM may occur. You should be observed for at least 20 minutes after administration. Signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction include itchy rash (hives/urticaria), tightness of the chest, wheezing, low blood pressure and anaphylaxis (which may also include throat or tongue swelling, shortness of breath, vomiting, hives and/or lightheadedness).
RhoGAM and MICRhoGAM are prepared from human plasma and may contain infectious agents that can cause disease. Numerous tests have been applied in the plasma collection process and specific viral inactivation steps have been added to the manufacturing process to minimize the risk of transmission of diseases, but all risk cannot be eliminated.
The most common side effects of RhoGAM and MICRhoGAM are swelling, hardening, redness, and mild pain at the site of the injection. A small number of patients have noted a slight fever.
Your healthcare provider should provide you with a completed Patient Identification Card for you to retain and present to other healthcare providers.
You are encouraged to report adverse events of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/ or