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Why It's Important To Know Your Partner's Blood Type Before Starting A Family

29 April 2021 Affinity Health

If you're thinking of starting a family, there are a few health concerns you may not have considered. One of these is your blood type.

Affinity Health – providers of affordable health cover for all South Africans – explains why your blood type can play a crucial role in your unborn baby's health.

There are four main blood groups – A, B, AB, and O, and you likely already know what group you fall into. If you don't, a simple blood test can tell you the answer.

Your blood type depends on which genes you inherited from your parents and – combined with your partner's blood type - will determine which blood type your children will have.

Why are blood types important when wanting to start a family, you may ask? Because if you decide on having a baby, your blood type can impact your child's health.

Rhesus (Rh) factor is a type of protein found on the surface of red blood cells. If your blood has the protein, you're Rh-positive. If your blood lacks the protein, you're Rh-negative. The majority of us, roughly 85%, are Rh-positive, leaving about 15% of the population Rh-negative.

Rh incompatibility happens when a woman who is Rh-negative falls pregnant with a baby with Rh-positive blood.

While Rh incompatibility does not affect a pregnant woman, it can affect their unborn baby.

Rh incompatibly can cause a baby to develop a condition known as haemolytic anaemia. The condition causes a baby's red blood cells to be destroyed faster than they can be replaced. While some cases of haemolytic anaemia are mild, others can be life-threatening.

A baby with severe haemolytic anaemia may need a blood transfusion through the umbilical cord or suffer jaundice and need special lights to reduce bilirubin levels. They may also experience liver or heart failure.

"Your health care provider will recommend a blood type and Rh factor screening test during your first prenatal visit (within three months of pregnancy). The Rh factor test is a simple blood test. It won’t harm you or your baby. The doctor will use a needle to take a small amount of blood from your arm. This will identify whether your blood cells carry the Rh factor protein," says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

"Rh factor is genetic and as such, it is not possible to choose which Rh type your baby has. But, if you are an Rh-negative woman with an Rh-positive baby, you can prevent Rh incompatibility by receiving certain medication (known as Rh immune globulin) during your pregnancy."

Your blood type is an important topic to discuss with your healthcare provider. With early detection and treatment of Rh incompatibility, you can focus on more important things - like welcoming a healthy baby into the world.

 

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