I’ve known since I was 18 that my blood type is B-. My mom and dad are both Rh negative, so my sister and I are in the same boat. I always knew my blood type was pretty rare and prior to when I had the brain surgery that disqualified me from donating ever again, I was a frequent flier at my local blood bank. But what I didn’t know was that being Rh negative (having a negative blood type), could present a potential problem in pregnancy.
My husband doesn’t know what his blood type is, so, as is standard practice, we are assuming he is positive and that means we need to proceed with caution. You see, being an Rh negative mother with a (potentially) Rh positive partner can mean bad things for the baby. I won’t go into the dry sciencey details, but an Rh negative mother being exposed to Rh positive blood (as can and often does happen during pregnancy) can result in pregnancy complications because the blood types are incompatible and the mother’s body sees the positive blood as an invader and attacks it. And so they developed a shot, called RhoGAM, to help prevent this complication.
I had already realized that this shot was in my future, but earlier this week I read on a pregnancy message board about a woman, and several others in the comments, who were opting out. And I just couldn’t understand.
I am no fan of shots, but I’m also not afraid of them. I used to get weekly allergy shots (which, to be fair, are done with the tiniest needles ever), I’ve had all my vaccines and more blood draws than I even want to talk about. I know as well as anyone that needles are no fun. I know that all shots have potential side effects. But the risks of Rhogam are pretty minimal and the risks of not getting it are even greater.
The reported side effects of the shots, which are given at 28 weeks, after delivery and at any episodes of bleeding during pregnancy, range from soreness at the injection site (spoiler alert: it’s a shot in the butt!) to fever, chills or a headache. The side effects of not getting the shot include your baby developing anemia, jaundice or even heart failure, as well as increased sensitization that could cause your body to attack future pregnancies. I am all about having the least number of medical interventions possible, but the shot has been studied thoroughly and has never been found to harm your baby, and we know conclusively that opting out, can.
I’m not thrilled about having to go to the doctor next week and drop trou for this shot, but I simply cannot fathom the alternative. I respect everyone’s right to make their own informed decisions when it comes to medicine, but to me, the risks of not doing it far outweigh the risks or fear that could associated with these shots.
Information on side effects found at RhoGAM’s website.
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