Hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN) occurs when the mother is Rh negative and the father is Rh positive, potentially creating an Rh-positive baby. It is crucial for the mother to receive immune globulin treatment in a timely manner because once she is sensitized, it can no longer help.1,2
It's important to know that even if the body produces these antibodies, it may not cause HDN. However, if these antibodies enter the baby's bloodstream, they can attack the baby's red blood cells and lead to HDN—Rh disease. HDN rarely develops in the first baby, but future Rh-positive babies may be at risk if the mother is sensitized.1,4
If HDN develops, it could become serious. A baby born with HDN may develop jaundice or anemia or may have permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system. HDN can also lead to mental handicaps, hearing loss, or cerebral palsy. The baby may also need an exchange transfusion to replace his or her blood.1,4
Download the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines for more information on treating HDN.
- In the United States, the frequency of Rh-negative status varies; it's about 17% in Caucasian people, less in African Americans, approximately 7% in non-Hispanics, and a very low incidence of 1.7% in the Asian population2
- Once a mother is sensitized, she can no longer receive immune globulin treatment for HDN; this is why it is crucial to have an Rh immune globulin such as HyperRHO S/D administered before the mother is exposed to Rh-positive red blood cells2,4
- An Rh-negative woman must be treated with an Rh immune globulin during each pregnancy5
- If an estimated 4 million births occur each year, approximately 4000 of those infants will develop HDN2,3