Medical Definition of Incompatibility, Rh

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Reviewed on 9/7/2018

Incompatibility, Rh: The state of mother and fetus having different Rh blood group types so that means their Rh types are "incompatible." The red blood cells of an Rh+ (Rh positive) fetus may in this situation be attacked by antibodies produced by the Rh- (Rh negative) mother. The antibodies pass across the placenta from mother to fetus and the result is hemolytic disease for the fetus and newborn.

Treatment may include watchful waiting, putting the baby "under the light" (under a UV light) or an exchange transfusion. Prevention of hemolytic disease of the newborn is by giving the mother Rh0 (D) immune globulin (brand name: RhoGAM).

History: Hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn was first described by a French midwife in 1609 in a set of twins: the first twin was hydropic (swollen with edema fluid) and stillborn; the second twin was deeply jaundiced and subsequently died of kernicterus.

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Reviewed on 9/7/2018