By Usha Anenga
Pre-marital counseling is an important ritual that has become a part of the fabric of preparation for marriage. Most churches have committees specially constituted to put couples through various, sometimes, very rigorous sessions to ensure proper preparedness and readiness for the inevitable emotional, physical and also financial challenges of this school of several examinations but no graduation.
As part of the routine counseling workup are several medical tests carried out to ensure physical fitness of the couple, most times with emphasis on tests for HIV and genotype. Others will include pregnancy test to make sure there are only two individuals being joined on the wedding day. Whilst the importance of the aforementioned tests cannot be overemphasized, there’s one very important test that is often overlooked in marriage counselling and it’s the one for blood grouping.
There are two major blood grouping systems which are of importance; the ABO system and Rhesus system. In the ABO system, there are A, B, AB and O blood types, while that of the Rhesus system could be either positive or negative. That is why you are often told your blood group is “A positive”, “O negative” etc.
Whilst there may also be issues of compatibility with the ABO system, the greater problem lies with the Rhesus system. Now if a person’s blood type is Rhesus-positive, he or she has Rhesus factor antigens on the red blood cell membrane surface and vice versa, if a person has Rhesus-negative blood, he or she is without the Rhesus factor antigen.
When a Rhesus-negative mother is impregnated by a Rhesus-positive father, it could result in either a Rhesus-positive or Rhesus negative baby. The problem however arises when the Rhesus-negative mother is pregnant with a Rhesus-positive baby. In such a case, the baby’s blood will be perceived as foreign invaders, the way viruses or bacteria are perceived and will be attacked by the mother’s blood cells thereby harming the baby.
If the mother is pregnant with her first baby, it is not as much of a concern. However, when the Rhesus-positive child is born, the mother’s body creates and builds up fighter cells waiting for any subsequent pregnancy with a Rhesus-positive baby to attack and kill it.
This is, often, the reason why a woman will be losing advanced pregnancies serially and people will be blaming her for eating them up or questioning the ancestors and sacrificing to the gods of the land. Now you know!
The good news is that there is an injectable drug that could be given after the delivery of the first baby and subsequent ones to avert this situation, and the last time I checked, it costs close to forty thousand Naira and must be given within 72 hours of delivery to be effective.
It’s therefore important to test intending couples for their blood group, assess their compatibility and counsel them appropriately. Better still, it’s good for unmarried ladies and gentlemen of marriageable age to know and share information concerning their blood groups with their spouses to prepare for this situation.
Expectant couples who have this piece of information can commence antenatal visits to get their blood checked amongst other tests and get proper care. Those affected should start saving towards purchase of that drug as part of their preparation to welcome a their new baby.
Lastly, armed with this information, women who have already suffered from this misfortune ignorantly should not be blamed, but encouraged to seek medical help from a competent health care practitioner.
Usha Anenga is a medical doctor and writes from Makurdi, Benue State