I wrote this a few weeks ago, but waited to share until after we announced the pregnancy.
I got a call on a Monday, telling me I needed to meet with a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist regarding something with my bloodwork. Immediately my mind started spinning. I had just seen my midwife 5 days prior. What was going on?
I asked that a nurse call me, and an hour or so later, my phone rang again. I learned that I had “increased antibodies” in my bloodstream, and it would probably just mean I’d need more blood draws throughout the pregnancy. The doctor would explain everything. At my appointment. In three weeks.
In the meantime, I looked up my test results online and discovered that the antibody I had was anti-JKa. Naturally, I consulted my favorite doctor, Dr. Google. There are over 30 different proteins that can be found in blood, the most common of which is the Rhesus factor (Rh). Rh is commonly referred to in blood typing as positive or negative. Thus, if you have the Rh protein, your blood type would be positive, and if you don’t, your blood type would be negative.
JKa is another, less common blood protein. Whether you have it or not is inconsequential unless you’re getting a transfusion or you’re pregnant. I do not have JKa. My husband does. We were completely unaware of this until I got this phone call. What most likely happened is that Luke has the protein and during his birth, some of my blood mixed with his. My blood then developed antibodies against the JKa (anti-JKa). Again, not an issue at all for me. Until now.
Now that I am pregnant with #3, the anti-JKa comes into play. The antibodies in my blood are very small and have the potential to cross the placenta. If they do, and the baby has the JKa protein in his/her blood, the antibodies will go about destroying the proteins, and, along with them, the red blood cells. This is obviously bad and can cause problems including anemia, hydrops, strain on the baby’s organs, and Hemolytic disease of the newborn.
Right now, the levels of antibodies in my blood are very low – considered a trace amount. They are not at a level that is considered dangerous. According to the internet, the usual course of treatment is to monitor the levels in my blood first. If they increase to a dangerous level, then I will start getting regular ultrasounds to view the blood flow in the baby to determine if the baby is anemic. If the baby becomes anemic, then we would potentially do an intrauterine blood transfusion or deliver early, depending on the gestational age at the time.
Needless to say, I’m a little freaked out by all of this. It was nice to have low risk pregnancies while they lasted. I am trying to stay positive and I’m looking forward to speaking with the MFM. There’s a 50% chance that this doesn’t matter at all (if the baby doesn’t have the JKa protein). Most cases require extra monitoring and nothing else, and the babies turn out perfectly fine. I’m hoping that’s all we have to deal with.