Treating Rhesus Disease In Pregnancy

There are different severities of rhesus disease which determine what course of treatment your doctor will opt for. About half of the babies born with rhesus disease have a mild condition which requires regular monitoring but not much in the way of treatment.

A quarter of the children born with this condition will have a moderately severe condition that can be treated using either phototherapy or blood transfusions. Phototherapy is a light based treatment which is designed to remove bilirubin, a substance produced in excess during rhesus disease and that can, if left unchecked, cause severe brain damage. Light energy from phototherapy speeds up the breakdown of bilirubin into safer compounds which dissolve in water.

Similarly blood transfusions can be used to clear bilirubin and prevent its toxic effects. Blood transfusions also offer the advantage of offering a way of removing the disease causing anti-D antibodies  circulating in a newborn’s blood.

Finally a quarter of babies born with rhesus disease can potentially suffer from severe symptoms that warrant much more intensive care in a specialist neonatal intensive care unit, also referred to as NIC. Here they will receive a much more intensive course of phototherapy and blood transfusions.

Unborn babies affected by rhesus disease can now also be treated quite effectively using what is called intrauterine blood transfusions (usually shortened to IUT). This procedure involves using the same needle used in FBS to transfuse blood to the unborn foetus. How many sessions of IUT your baby will need will vary, and it is possible that your unborn child will need IUT either every fortnight or month until they are old enough to be delivered. The success of IUT varies, but it can prevent anaemia and other complications from affecting an unborn child, preserving their health. There is still a chance that further transfusions and phototherapy may be needed after birth.

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