May 16, 2017

34m Nigerian women affected, as ignorance fuels Rhesus incompatibility

34m Nigerian women affected, as ignorance fuels Rhesus incompatibility

By Chioma Obinna

Health experts have decried the plight of Nigerian women faced with continuous loss of babies including unborn ones due to Rhesus incompatibility, lamenting that no fewer than 34 million Nigerian women are Rhesus Negative.

The experts who also blamed the needless deaths of children on poor awareness about the condition said Rhesus incompatibility has link with witchcraft or abiku.

In her presentation at a seminar with the theme: “Every Life Counts”  Rhesus Solution Initiative, RSI, the President, Mrs Funmiayo Banire, disclosed that RSI’s estimates show that there about 216,000 Rhesus Negative women in Lagos.

Banire at the event to mark the 10th Anniversary of RSI, explained that research conducted by RSI puts prevalence of Rhesus negative women who may be at risk of complications from rhesus incomparability at about 6.01 percent of the sample population.

She said previous research has also puts the prevalence to be between 5 to 9.5 percent, this she said, may seem small but not negligible compare to the size of the population.

“We believe that every life counts and in this regard we have been able to donate over 1500 Anti D Immunoglobulin (Rhogam) across General and private hospitals. We have been able to reach over 3000 rhesus negative women.”

Banire regretted that the cost of the drug, Anti D Immunoglobulin known as Rhogam designed to save these babies, has escalated from N19,000 to N25,000 and out of  reach of women that require it.

She said RSI was informed by the level of ignorance about rhesus incompatibility resulting from encounters with young women who have lost their infants through miscarriages and stillbirths for lack of knowledge of rhesus status.

Speaking, a professor of Haematology, Prof. Aba Omotunde Sagoe harped on the need for antenatal care as well as appropriate anti D antibody therapy once tested for anti bodies.

“One cannot imagine the psychological trauma a woman goes through after pregnancy and preparation for a naming ceremony and the woman now landed with a baby that becomes jaundice with yellow eyes, yellowish dark skin and getting sicker by the hour. It is a devastating experience needing urgent medical intervention.”

She explained that rhesus incompatibility  can lead to  haemolytic disease of the newborn, a condition where antibodies in the pregnant woman attack her baby’s red blood cells.

“It may happen over and over again especially if the husband has a double dose of this rhesus type. As usual they will say is Abiku or they say it is witchcraft, or the devil.  No, it is in our cells and we have a way of treating it now.”

She disclosed that RSI is collating rhesus negative donors who can be called upon whenever rhesus immunisation occurs because when this problem occurs the baby’s can only be treated with rhesus negative blood.

She said Rhogam has improved quality of care, outcome of life and  stresses fact that healthy babies can occur in Rhesus negative mothers.

On her part, the Guest lecturer, Chief Consultant, Haematologist, Dr. Modupe Adebimpe Olaiya noted: “Blood type A.B.AB, O, whether rhesus negative or positive are virtually inherited from either parent. “If a rhesus negative mother carries a rhesus positive foetus, the incompatibility in their rhesus status can make the mother to form antibodies against foetal red blood cells and that in turn can lead to miscarriage, still birth or haemolytic disease of the newborn.”

Olaiya said although the disease was almost extinct in the developed world, it is a major cause of death in infants in Nigeria.

She said to prevent the disease; pregnant women should be injected within 28 weeks of pregnancy and 72 hours after delivery.

Olaiya who is the Head Lagos State Blood Transfusion Services said prevention is also achievable through awareness creation, screening for blood group, genotype and health insurance.

She identified illiteracy, activities of some TBAs, superstitious beliefs, poverty and quack hospitals as major challenges in reducing the prevalence of rhesus incompatibility.