I never thought A- was a rare blood type until I came to China.
The vast majority of the population here has Rh+ blood, and I, being Rh-, am apparently a rare breed indeed. This has created a few problems for us over the course of this pregnancy. Women who are Rh- generally need a shot in order to ward off antibodies which might harm future fetuses. This shot is only available from once source in China, and to the tune of about 1500RMB a pop, it’s not cheap. We had to jump through all sorts of hoops to procure one dose of this serum of life, and now it sits in our refrigerator, waiting to work it’s ant-antibody magic.
We thought our Rh drama was finished, but we overlooked one thing. If Rh- blood is so rare in China, then what happens if, for whatever reason, I lose a lot of blood during childbirth and need a supply of A-, stat? The doctor brought up this issue at our last visit, and advised us to be prepared. Now, of course we’re talking worst case scenario here, and there’s no reason to believe that I actually will need blood, but better safe than sorry, right?
As a result, my poor husband has been in a panic the past few days trying to figure out how, exactly, one might find A- blood. His first thought was that I just put some of my own blood in the bank for future use, which would have been a great idea if we’d thought of it say, nine months ago, but needless to say, heavily pregnant women are not allowed to give blood. So we have once again turned to the people who provided us with the Rh shot, who apparently have a database of many registered Rh- blood type sort of people here in China. Wang Yao has also contacted the local blood bank to see what their supply of A- looks like. Our doctors assure us that under normal circumstances we won’t even need the blood, but we’ve got a plan in place just in case we do.
If, by chance, you’re in China and planning on having a baby, or even if you’re not, do consider having your blood type done, and if you’re Rh-, donating a bit to your local blood bank. It could save someone’s life. There are Rh- people in China, but they account for less than 1% of the population, so when those people have life threatening injuries or diseases that need treatment, your blood could be the only source available. For women who are Rh negative in China, there is www.china-rh.net, a resource for Rh negative people and expectant mothers in particular. The very helpful Lin Feng at China-Rh has answered many of our questions and arranged for our dose of Rhogam (the anti-antibody shot). Unfortunately because Rh- blood is so uncommon in China, it is not widely understood by doctors. If you are pregnant do not rely on what your doctor says about the antibodies, the shot, or anything really. We were told that traditional Chinese medicine would work if our child was born with Rh disease (which is what happens when the mother’s antibodies attack the unborn child’s blood cells because of a blood type conflict), told that Rhogam was unavailable in China, and were told flat out “we don’t know anything about this” by more than one doctor. Pretty appalling, considering that even though less than 1% of all Chinese people are Rh- (and a lot of those are minorities), that’s still a pretty large number given China’s population.
So to all China readers out there, this is my public service announcement for the day: Give blood, especially if you’re Rh-! You yourself might end up needing it someday, and if not, someone else will be very thankful that you did.