A Complete Guide to the RhoGAM Shot
RhoGAM or Rho (D) Immune Globulin is a sterilized solution made from human blood (plasma) that is given to women who are Rh negative in the form of an injection into a muscle or vein. Rh is a protein most people have in their blood. It’s either found (positive) or not found (negative) on the surface of your red blood cells. Only 15% of the United States’ population is Rh negative, and of those, most are Caucasian.
RhoGAM is latex-free and contains no mercury. This drug was approved by the FDA in 1968 and since has made it possible for healthy families to grow. In 1977, the brand introduced a mini-dose called MICRhoGAM. Between the two drugs, Rh factor in pregnancy has almost disappeared.
However, some people are allergic to this medication and may need a special test to use the drug or dosage adjustment. If you have a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia, an immune globulin-A deficiency, or have an allergy to human immune globulin you will need to discuss this with your health care provider first. Still, RhoGAM is not known to be harmful to a baby during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Why is RhoGAM Administered?
Typically, being Rh negative is not a health concern until pregnancy occurs or a blood transfusion is needed. Rh incompatibility is a mismatch between the blood of the mother and the blood of the fetus and occurs when the mother is Rh negative and the fetus is Rh positive. In most cases, complications are rare since this condition is usually diagnosed early on and treated with a blood product called RhoGAM. When Rh negative blood is exposed to Rh positive blood, the Rh negative blood responds by producing antibodies that attack and destroy the Rh positive blood cells. This can lead to problems such as anemia, kidney failure, or shock. Rh immunoglobulin prevents your immune system from attacking your baby’s blood.
When is RhoGAM Administered?
The only time RhoGAM needs to be administered is when an Rh negative blood can potentially be exposed to Rh positive blood. The most common time this occurs is during pregnancy and blood transfusions. For Rh negative women who are experiencing their first pregnancy, RhoGAM is usually not administered until their 28th week of gestation, then again within 72 hours after delivery. For every subsequent pregnancy after the first, RhoGAM will need to be administered at regular intervals, especially during the second half of gestation. Rh negative women also need this injection after any miscarriage or abortion in the future.
Side Effects of RhoGAM
RhoGAM is known to cause side effects in some women. Call your health care provider immediately if you begin experiencing:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat
- Fever, chills or shaking
- Sudden weight gain
- Swelling in your hands, feet or ankles
- Back pain
- A change in your urine’s color
- Not urinating as often as usual
Less serious side effects may include:
- Muscle aches or pains
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain or tenderness at injection site
It’s important to inform your health care provider of all drugs you are taking. This should include vitamins, minerals, herbal products and drugs prescribed by other doctors, as well as over-the-counter products. Other drugs may interact with RhoGAM and cause additional side effects. It’s also important to talk with your health care provider about the risks involved with administering RhoGAM. Because it’s made from human plasma, it may contain viruses or other infectious agents that can cause disease. RhoGAM is screened, tested, and treated to reduce the risk of containing any harmful substances, but there is a small possibility it could transmit disease. Talk with your doctor more about all side effects, benefits and risks involved.
Based on the manufacturer, you may hear this drug called a different name than RhoGAM (brand name of Johnson & Johnson), including:
- MICRhoGAM (Johnson & Johnson)
- Rho (D)
- Gamulin Rh
- HypRho-D Mini-Dose
- Mini-Gamulin Rh
- WinRho SDF (Cangene)
- Partobulin SDF (Baxter)
- Rhesonativ (Octapharma)