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Rh Factors: Are You Positive or Negative?

Scientists sometimes study Rhesus monkeys to learn more about the human anatomy because there are certain similarities between the two species. While studying Rhesus monkeys, a certain blood protein was discovered. This protein is also present in the blood of some people. Other people, however, do not have the protein. The presence of the protein, or lack of it, is referred to as the Rh (for Rhesus) factor.

If your blood does contain the protein, your blood is said to be Rh positive (Rh+). If your blood does not contain the protein, your blood is said to be Rh negative (Rh-).

This Rh factor is connected to your blood type. For example, your blood may be AB+ which means that you have type AB blood with a positive Rh factor. Or, you might have O- blood which means that you have type O blood with a negative Rh factor.

It is particularly important for expectant mothers to know their blood's Rh factor. Occasionally, a baby will inherit an Rh positive blood type from its father while the mother has an Rh negative blood type. The baby's life could be in great danger if the mother's Rh negative blood attacks the baby's Rh positive blood. If this happens, an exchange transfusion may save the baby's life. The baby's blood can be exchanged for new blood that matches the mother's.

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