As a surrogate, you’re prepared for a wide variety of medical screenings, medications and, yes, injections.
But one shot in particular is typically administered under very specific circumstances: we will explore what RhoGAM is, the injection behind it, and why some surrogates are encouraged to get it during pregnancy.
Oh - and RhoGAM is nothing short of a medical miracle.
RhoGAM, short for Rho (D) Immune Globulin, is the brand name of a sterile solution made from human blood plasma and given to Rh-negative women in the form of an injection. Rh, or Rhesus, is a protein on the surface of red blood cells that most people naturally have.
If you have the protein, you are considered Rh-positive. If not, you are Rh-negative, a trait shared by 15 percent of the US population. And while it generally doesn’t matter if you’re Rh status is positive or negative, pregnancy is a time when Rh status matters, especially if you are Rh-negative and the fetus is Rh-positive.
When a gestational carrier who is Rh-negative receives a RhoGAM shot, she is preventing her blood system from potentially attacking the fetal blood.
There are two aspects to consider in potential differences between the surrogate and the infant's blood systems:
Any blood type may require the RhoGAM shot depending on Rh status. If the gestational carrier is Rh-negative, but the baby is Rh-positive, she could develop antibodies that attack and destroy Rh-positive blood. This may cause fetal anemia, which can develop into hydrops fetalis, a condition that leads to internal bleeding, shock, and heart and kidney failure. Before the development of the RhoGAM medicine in the 1960s, this condition alone led to the death of about 10,000 newborns annually and brain damage in others.
The risk of fetal harm increases from one pregnancy to any future Rh-positive fetuses in subsequent pregnancies. In fact, if you are Rh-negative, your doctor will likely suggest you have a RhoGAM shot after a miscarriage, especially in the first trimester, within 72 hours. This will help prevent the antibodies from circulating any further and reduce future risks.
A RhoGAM shot acts almost as a vaccination, which introduces the body to a dosage of a virus that is too small to cause serious illness. Thus, the body learns to fight the virus effectively and prevents major reaction or sickness if exposed later which is called Rh sensitization. In this case, a RhoGAM shot contains antibodies to Rh-positive blood, but not in a high enough amount that it will hurt the fetus.
When the gestational carrier's body detects antibodies from an infant's Rh-positive blood, which can happen especially during delivery, her immune system reacts as if it has already fought the foreign Rh-positive red blood cells. Since her immune system doesn’t react to the fetal blood, any harm to the baby is fully averted. A miracle you might say.
Women have experienced side effects to RhoGAM. Some of the more common side effects may include:
It’s also possible for RhoGAM to interact with other prescription and over-the-counter medications, so it’s important to have a thorough evaluation and discussion with your doctor to determine the best course of action.
For a first pregnancy, RhoGAM is typically injected at about 28 weeks and then again within 72 hours post-delivery. For any subsequent pregnancies, RhoGAM is administered regularly during the second half of the pregnancy. It will stay in the body for approximately 3 weeks, but can be detected for as long as 8 to 12 weeks and is typically detected at delivery.
Are you a woman who was enjoyed a healthy and successful pregnancy? Do you have friends or family who have suffered from infertility or need assistance from someone else to build their family? Have you ever considered the role you could play in helping someone else build their family - as a surrogate? Talk to us to learn more about the possibilities to help someone else's dream come true.