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Rh Factor

Eliminating Rh Disease

Until the introduction of the Rh immune globulin vaccine, Rh disease could not be prevented. About 45 babies per 10,000 births developed the disease each year before widespread use of the vaccine in the early 1970s. The number of newborns with Rh disease has dropped dramatically since the introduction of the vaccine, to about 10 per 10,000 in the early 1990s. The prevention of Rh disease is one of the triumphs of modern medicine.

Nevertheless, the number of newborns born in the United States each year with Rh disease is still relatively high. The disease is not completely eradicated. Further steps must be taken, since this is a preventable disease. The majority of cases of Rh disease are the result of women not receiving the vaccine at the appropriate time. Poor women without health insurance, who are likely to lack adequate prenatal care, are especially vulnerable to this oversight. Older women may have become sensitized before the vaccine was available. Foreign-born women may not have had access to the vaccine. With further diligence, health care providers hope to eradicate Rh disease.



Reuben, Carolyn. The Health Baby Book. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee Books, 1992.

Rich, Laurie A. When Pregnancy Isn't Perfect. New York: Dutton, 1991.


Heins, Henry C. "Should You Worry About Rh Disease?" American Baby (April 1992): 24.


March of Dimes Public Health Education Information Sheet Planning for Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond. Washington, DC: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 1990.

Liz Marshall


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—A yellow pigment that is the end result of hemoglobin degradation. Bilirubin is cleared from the blood by action of liver enzymes and excreted from the body.

Prenatal test

—Procedure done to determine the presence of disease or defect in a fetus.


—Occurs when a mother's blood produces antibodies against the blood of her Rh positive fetus.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Revaluation of values: to Sarin Gas - History And Global Production Of SarinRh Factor - Importance Of The Rh Factor, Rh Factor In Pregnancy, Treatment For Rh Disease, Eliminating Rh Disease