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The Significance of Being Rh Negative or Rh Positive

In 1937, Karl Landsteiner and Alexander Weiner discovered a new blood type: the rhesus blood type, or Rh factor. The rhesus protein is named for the rhesus monkey, which also carries the gene, and is a protein that lives on the surface of the red blood cells. This protein is also often called the D antigen. When it comes to blood transfusion, anyone who is Rh positive can receive blood from someone who is Rh negative, but those with negative blood types cannot receive from anyone with a positive blood type.

To put it simply, Landsteiner and Weiner discovered that blood types can be either Rh positive or Rh negative, doubling the commonly known blood types from four (A, B, AB, and O), to the eight we know today.

However, when it comes to the Rh blood types, many of us do not fully understand what it means to be positive or negative. In the United States, approximately 85% of the population has an Rh-positive blood type, leaving only 15% with Rh negative. Just as we inherit our blood type “letter” from our parents, we inherit the Rh factor from them as well. Each person has two Rh factors in their genetics, one from each parent. The only way for someone to have a negative blood type is for both parents to have at least one negative factor. For example, if someone’s Rh factors are both positive, it is not possible for his or her child to have a negative blood type. Only people with two Rh-negative factors will have a negative blood type, which is why the occurrence of Rh-negative blood is less common than Rh-positive blood.

When Landsteiner and Weiner discovered the Rh protein, they were researching solutions for the cause of a medical mystery that killed dozens of babies each day. This led to the development and FDA-approval of RhoGAM® in 1968. RhoGAM, or Rho(d) Immune Globulin Human, is a sterilized solution made from human blood. It is used to prevent an immune response in mothers who are Rh negative. If a pregnant woman who is Rh negative does not receive RhoGAM, and is carrying an Rh-positive baby, she risks the health of future pregnancies because she has been exposed to the positive blood from her current unborn baby.

Once a woman finds out she is pregnant, her doctor will test her blood to determine her Rh factor. Since more people are Rh positive than Rh negative, it is likely that an Rh-negative mother could be carrying a baby who is Rh positive, creating the risk for hemolytic disease of a newborn (HDN) in future pregnancies, essentially destroying that baby’s red blood cells. If a woman is Rh negative, she will most likely receive a RhoGAM injection.

When a woman receives RhoGAM, it protects her immune system from the exposure to the current baby’s Rh-positive blood. If she does not receive the injection, her body will develop antibodies that could attack the positive red blood cells of babies in subsequent pregnancies, which will cause HDN. HDN can cause serious illnesses, brain damage or even death in a fetus or newborn. Pregnant women typically receive RhoGAM twice during their pregnancy: once at approximately 28 weeks and once within 72 hours of delivery, if in fact, the newborn baby is Rh positive.

Although we have become accustomed to adding a positive or negative description to our blood type, the Rh factor plays a larger role than many of us realize. Knowing your blood type can play a significant role in your life and health.

About Life,

Why Summer Is a Time of Need

Every year when summer is approaching, we urge our donors and drive coordinators to make a commitment to help us during our time of need. During the summer months, blood centers all over the country run short on all blood types. Shortages often happen around the same times each year: July – August and December – January.

During the summer months, there are more people outside being active and having fun. While this is always encouraged, it also means there are more people injuring themselves and potentially in need of blood transfusions. In addition, since people are out of town or enjoying the nice weather, there are less of them lining up to give blood. This – you guessed it – leads to less blood for patients, but more patients in need of blood.

Another factor that majorly contributes to the lower blood supply in the summer is school vacation. During the school semesters, we have high schools and universities in our community that volunteer to host blood drives, which account for nearly 21 percent of all the blood we receive each year. When school isn’t in session, we don’t have access to the donors who regularly give during the school year.

The lack of student-run blood drives and the overall decrease in donors makes summer a tough time for all of us in the blood banking industry. If you have ever considered hosting a blood drive, look into scheduling with us during the summer months when your efforts can go even further in the community.

If you are eligible to give, please consider doing so near the beginning and end of summer. That way, your blood can be on the shelves when patients in the community need it most.

For more information on times of need or how you can prepare to help Carter BloodCare save lives in your community, call 1-800-DONATE-4 or click here to host a blood drive., Health

How Alcohol Affects Your Blood

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and at Carter BloodCare, we think it is the perfect time to advocate a healthier lifestyle. Anyone who has given blood knows that you cannot donate if you are under the influence of alcohol, and you shouldn’t consume alcoholic beverages in the 12 hours following your donation. But beyond that, how much of an influence does alcohol have on our blood and blood health?

According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Ingesting more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increases blood pressure. However, excessive alcohol consumption can have long-term effects on the blood and the heart.

In addition to long-term damage, there are many short-term effects alcohol has on the body. While under the influence, people are affected by loss of judgment, impaired motor coordination, distorted vision and hearing, and in some cases anemia. While these outcomes wear off once the alcohol has left your system, if you have donated blood and drink alcohol, your body is more susceptible to these dangers.

After giving blood, it is important to follow the post-donation guidelines including to avoid drinking for at least 12 hours following your donation. Taking care of your body while it works to replenish nutrients and blood cells is essential to the blood donation process. Alcohol dilates the blood vessels, which causes less blood to be available to circulate to the brain. This can lead to dizziness and fainting and be harmful to you in the long-term.

During Alcohol Awareness Month, our goal is not to tell people they need to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages. Instead, we want to encourage everyone to take proactive steps to be in control of their health. If you have any concerns, speak with your doctor.

Sources:, Health

Overcoming and Uncovering the Fear of Needles

It’s one of the most common excuses for not giving blood: they have a fear of needles. While almost no one enjoys getting a shot or getting pricked by needles, there are a lot of people who are genuinely afraid of the idea of needles. Known as trypanophobia, a phobia of needles affects nearly 10 percent of people.

Where Does It Come From?
Around 20 percent of the population has some degree of fear towards needles or injections in one way or another. This fear is both an inherited trait and a learned trait. While a small percentage of people inherit a fear of needles, most people develop it around ages 4 to 6 through either experience or learning.

What Is the Difference Between a Fear of Needles and Needle Phobia?
Dr. Don Hafer, Director of Behavioral Health Services for Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, says a phobia is an unrealistic level of fear and anxiety that keeps you from doing something you want or need to do. A fear of needles, or general needle anxiety, is something that people can still deal with; however, they may just take a moment or two before they are ready to receive a shot at the doctor’s office. “If it doesn’t interfere with your life, then it isn’t a phobia.”

How Does a Phobia Affect Getting a Shot or Giving Blood?
“Anxiety in normal amounts is beneficial and useful,” says Dr. Hafer. “Anxiety can motivate us to keep trying and push ourselves.” However, high anxiety can alter your body physiologically by increasing heart rate, changing blood flow, raising blood pressure, and tensing muscles. This keeps you from doing what you are tasked to do, and that is exactly when it becomes a phobia.

Is There a Way to Treat a Phobia of Needles?
According to Dr. Hafer, the most common and effective way to treat any phobia is through systematic desensitization. This involves going to a professional to learn relaxation methods. From there, people are exposed to imagery of what causes them fear, in this case needles, in a relaxed state to get them more comfortable with the idea of their fear. Then it is time to experiment in real life. “This method is usually very effective,” says Dr. Hafer. “I know from experience with my own phobia of needles that it can help you become comfortable when it is time to give blood.”

How Can People Who Are Scared Find a Way to Give Blood?
“Deep breathing is always a good place to start,” says Dr. Hafer. “When you focus on your breath and comforting thoughts, your body relaxes so it won’t hurt. If you are scared, your body will tense up, which can make the process more painful.” Dr. Hafer suggests being upfront with a phlebotomist about your fears. If you need to take a few moments to prepare yourself beforehand, let them know so they can ensure it is a comfortable experience for you.

Why Do You Think It Is Important for People to Overcome a Fear of Needles?
“If you give blood, you save lives,” says Dr. Hafer. “There are so few people who have not, in some way, been affected by blood donations or transfusions. Whether it is you or a family member, chances are you know someone who needs or has needed blood to survive. It is easy and doesn’t cause significant pain, and it is a simple way to save a life.”

If you have a fear of needles, Texas Health Resources can help. Call their 24/7 Behavioral Health Hotline at 682-236-6023 to set up a free one-hour consultation with a masters-level therapist at any of the over 20 locations throughout the DFW metroplex.