What Is RhoGAM?

RhoGAM Is a Specific Brand of Immune Globulin

Image courtesy Johnson & Johnson

RhoGAM is a specific brand of Rh- immune globulin. This drug is an injection given to women who are Rh negative (your blood is O negative, A negative, or so forth) who give birth or experience a pregnancy loss. RhoGAM is not the only brand of Rh- immune globulin on the market, but it was the first developed, and the term became commonly used to refer to Rh- immune globulin much the same as people use the brand name Kleenex to refer to all types of tissues.

Rh- immune globulin prevents a woman's body from forming antibodies to Rh factor in the event that her baby's blood type is Rh positive. If her body does form these antibodies, future pregnancy complications may result. Sensitization after a miscarriage is rare but most physicians prefer to give the shot to women with Rh negative blood types as a precaution.

The Rh- immune globulin is a blood product and carries a small risk of transmitting bloodborne viruses, but in most cases the benefits outweigh the risks. Adverse effects attributable to RhoGAM are rare; however, most physicians will keep women for observation about 20 minutes following the injection.

What Are Some Other Terms for RhoGAM?

RhoGAM is also referred to as RhIG and brand names, such as MICRhoGam, WinRho-D and BayRho-D.

A More Specific Description of the Actions of Rho (D) Immunoglobulin

When an Rh negative woman gives birth to a baby with Rh positive blood or miscarries a baby with Rh positive blood, some blood from the baby can leak into the mother's system during delivery.

Remember that delivery is, among other things, a bloody process. This blood exposure can cause the mother to create antibodies to Rh positive blood. In the case of future pregnancy, should the baby be Rh positive, antibodies in the mother's body can then attack the baby resulting in a condition termed hemolytic disease of the newborn.

What Is Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn?

Hemolytic disease of the newborn is also called erythroblastosis fetalis. Infants born with this condition can appear in various states from normal to severely ill. This condition commonly presents as jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, eyes and tongue, which occurs due to breakdown of red blood cells and accumulation of the byproduct bilirubin. Hemolytic disease of the newborn can also cause cardiorespiratory arrest and death of the newborn baby.

Hemolytic disease of the newborn can be detected either in the fetus or in the baby using laboratory testings. Specifically, in order to diagnose the fetus, a cordocentesis must be performed. Cordocentesis is an invasive test in which blood is drawn from the umbilical vein in the umbilical cord which connects to the placenta. Hemolytic disease of the newborn is diagnosed in newborns using blood testing.

Selected Sources

Steele P. Diseases of Infancy and Childhood. In: Laposata M. eds. Laboratory Medicine: The Diagnosis of Disease in the Clinical Laboratory. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014. Accessed January 16, 2016.

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