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Anti-D? Pass it on!

If you are Rhesus (D) negative, the Rhesus factor is missing in your blood. This is the case for about 15% of the Western European population. Rhesus (D) is a blood group just like A, AB or O. This is nothing serious, unless you are Rhesus (D) negative and are expecting a Rhesus (D) positive child. If your blood comes into contact with that of your baby after delivery, your body may develop antibodies to the baby's red blood cells. Antibodies are usually not developed until after delivery, but sometimes this happens during the pregnancy already. That's why laboratory testing is done in week 27 of the pregnancy to see whether antibodies have developed. Antibodies break down the baby's red blood cells, resulting in anaemia and severe jaundice, aka rhesus disease. The testing also determines whether the foetus is Rhesus (D) positive or Rhesus (D) negative.

How can Rhesus disease be prevented?

If the tests show that your child is Rhesus (D) positive, a Rhesus injection is administered in week 30 and after delivery. This injection contains antibodies that get rid of the child's Rhesus (D) positive red blood cells that may have entered the mother's bloodstream.

Why are anti-Rhesus (D) donors needed?

This Rhesus injection (officially: anti-Rhesus (D) immunoglobulin) is made from human plasma containing Rhesus (D) antibodies. The plasma is collected from voluntary, unpaid Dutch donors. However, there are too few plasma donors with the required (high) level of Rhesus (D) antibodies in their blood. Therefore, the blood bank is always looking for donors who do have enough Rhesus (D) antibodies in their blood.

Want to know more?

  • Download the folder 'Anti-D? Geef het door!’ (in Dutch / PDF) for a comprehensive version of the above-mentioned information.
  • Or register as a blood donor; you will be tested for Rhesus (D) antibodies during the first screening.

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