Rhesus disease

Rhesus disease

Rhesus disease is one of the diseases which can cause jaundice. It can only happen if a mother's blood type is Rhesus negative and her baby's blood type is Rhesus positive.

Rhesus disease is one of the diseases which can cause jaundice.

Rhesus disease can only happen if a mother's blood type is Rhesus negative and her baby's blood type is Rhesus positive. The mother's immune system produces antibodies that react against her baby's blood. The baby's red blood cells break down. The medical word for this process is haemolysis. It leads to more bilirubin being produced than normal and a high chance of jaundice.

A mother's blood type is routinely checked at the beginning of pregnancy. All women who are Rhesus negative have extra blood tests during pregnancy to check if they are making Rhesus antibodies. The baby's blood group is not known at this stage. It is checked after birth. If a baby is at risk of Rhesus disease, there are several treatments.

See page about jaundice in babies.

This page last reviewed 16 February 2016.
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