Rh is the most important blood group next to the ABO types and nearly every human can be categorized as “Rh positive” or “Rh negative.”
When an Rh-negative woman marries an Rh-positive man, they have a baby who inherits the father’s Rh-positive blood, leaving the mother and child mismatched.
So when the fetus’s blood trickles into the mother’s circulation, which may occur during delivery, abortion, miscarriage or throughout pregnancy, the mother’s immune system perceives its red blood cells as invaders, releasing antibodies to destroy them.
The problem here is that, these antibodies can cross the placenta and attack the fetus.
Florence Nneka Onwuasoanya did not know about the Rh disease until her ninth miscarriage. It was so bad that she was being referred to as the “woman who loses all the babies.”
As a young woman, she got pregnant but aborted it as she wasn’t married. Surprisingly, the odd thing about Rh disease is that the first baby is usually fine, and delivered before the mother produces enough antibodies to cause harm.
This is because once a woman’s immune system has been “sensitized” to the Rh-negative blood cells; it will be ready to attack the next time.
So, when Florence’s second pregnancy came, she was ready for it because at that time, she was married, sadly, she lost it. It became a regular occurrence that her husband no longer celebrated her pregnancies because he believed the babies were not going to stay.
On one occasion, she carried the pregnancy to full term but her baby died after being delivered through caesarean section.
Determined to show that she had no hand in her children’s death, she visited churches; swallowed herbal concoctions, including a mixture that has live maggots.
She even travelled to perform rituals at the Niger River, where she narrowly escaped a crocodile attack, when someone told her she had an ogbanje.
In 2009, she finally got an explanation to why she had been losing her children. Florence is now aware that she and her husband have a biological mismatch that can gravely endanger pregnancies.
Thankfully, rhesus disease is preventable because of medical advancements. The anti-D injection called Rhogam, world’s first “anti-D immune globulin” can stop the disease but a woman who is rh-ve has to be given the injection during and after pregnancy.
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