Rhesus Solution Initiative (RSI), a Lagos-based non-governmental agency last week marked the 2012 Rhesus Factor Day with the objective of creating and promoting public awareness on rhesus factor. The day was for participants to know their blood group and rhesus status to prevent incompatibility during child birth for women and during blood transfusion for both sexes.
Guest Speaker, Dr. Fatai Bello of the Department of Haematology and Blood Transfusion, LUTH Lagos, said the Rh factor is a protein that is found on the covering of the red blood cells, pointing out that if the Rh factor protein is present in the cells, the person is Rh positive and if there is no Rh factor protein, the person is Rh negative.
He explained that when a baby is born, the baby gets half of his body from each parent and Rh incompatibility occurs when the mother's blood type is Rh negative and her baby's blood type is Rh positive.
Bello said, "if some of the baby's blood gets into the mother's bloodstream, her body will produce antibodies. These antibodies could pass back through the placenta and harm the developing baby's red blood cells. The first baby is usually safe, because baby's and maternal blood usually do not mix until delivery. If the second baby is also Rh positive, there's a risk that the antibodies will attack her blood cells and cause problems", he stated.
On the signs of Rhesus disease, the Doctor of Haematology said Rhesus disease shows no sign most times and can cause recurrent still birth, jaundice in newborn and mental retardation in the baby.
To prevent rhesus disease, Bello said "The woman must know her blood group before her first pregnancy. It she is rhesus negative, she must know her partner's blood group too. If the male partner is rhesus positive, she must take an injection when get pregnant (Rhogam).
"Rhogam removes Rh positive baby's blood cells from the mother's bloodstream before her body recognizes them and begins making antibodies. A rhesus negative pregnant woman takes the injection at 28 weeks. Another one is taken within 72 hours of delivery if the baby is rhesus positive. It must be taken even if the pregnancy is aborted or there is a miscarriage. The injection is harmless to mother and baby", he noted.
According to Bello, Nigeria has about 5 percent cases of Rhesus disease and early awareness could help reduce or prevent cases of mortality rate.
President/Founder, RSI, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Banire said the day was designed to enlighten and train traditional birth attendants on all information about Rhesus factor, with particular emphasis on the importance of blood group and rhesus status determination for their patients.
She said the organisation focuses specially on rhesus negative women through awareness on rhesus factor and support for financially challenged rhesus negative mothers by donating Free Rhogam Injection (Anti-D Immunoglobulin) Injection.
"These humanitarian services are aimed towards re-orientating the women who attribute repeated loss of pregnancies or babies to abiku syndrome, witchcraft or spiritual problems and also to ensure healthy deliveries of live babies by rhesus negative mothers, as captioned in our organizational slogan: Live Baby For Every Mother."