Posted by: thelocaldialect | October 20, 2007

On Being Rh Negative in China

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, 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.


  1. Hi…I’m not a Chinese reader but a Japanese one and I think it’s the same problem here. I too am A- and was miffed when my Dr. referred me to another hospital at 38 weeks. No explanation at the time but I found out later that it was ‘just in case’. I’m not sure whether or not the larger hospital had a huge stash of A- blood but her little clinic didn’t. Anyway…happy ending to the story, I didn’t (thank goodness) need any blood and had a safe delivery. Hope you do too!
    By the way….I had no idea the Rhogam (sp?) was that expensive!

  2. oh my! That is weird! I am 0- and actually one of my Chinese friends is also 0- (no one in my family is but me!) so we decided that if either of us need blood,we would give it to each other!
    Also, I was also given a shot of rhogam after I gave birth, once before at 28 weeks and once after in the hospital.

  3. Hi! I am living in the Beijing area and have the AB- blood type. I am 28 weeks pregnant, and need to get the rhoGAM shot, but the only place offering it in Beijing is the SOS clinic – to the tune of 2700rmb, plus the 1500rmb doctor fee. Is there anyway you could e-mail me and let me know where you purchased the rhoGAM from? 1500rmb seems a lot less expensive than what SOS is telling me! Thanks so much. 🙂

  4. c”, hi..wanna share this w/ you… i/we never thought that im A- untl my 2nd baby suffered from hemolytic of a new born..almost 15 days in the obgyne overlooked my rh factor…we were very thankful to the person donated the blood for my baby..we never saw him/her neither met..I’m looking forward to a blood donation to help those in my same situation…Thank God my daughter is turning ONE on August..and still praying for her succesful operation of her cleft lip..we’re proud of her..we love her so much..we thank God! c”,

  5. […] recognized me from my blog. I’d written a post awhile back, when I was still pregnant, about being Rh negative in China, where the majority of the population is Rh positive, and the challenges this poses for expats […]

  6. I find this fascinating. In one of my ESL classes, the topic of blood types randomly surfaced. My students did not know anything at all about Rh factor and since I am a nurse by training I told them all about it. Then I did some reading and discovered 99% of Chinese are +. Great for me since I am A+, but my husband is AB- and a pilot who frequently flies around in small airplanes, so you can imagine how I freaked at the thought of blood not being available should he, god forbid, ever need it.

    I have been in contact with the International SOS clinic in Beijing (the ones who have the private jet at Beijing airport for emergencies) about this and they say they do have resources for getting the blood.

    I’m glad you were able to get the Rhogam shot!

  7. If anyone would like to help a poor sick boy with leukemia, please email me. The boy has A- blood and needs a blood transfusion every week because of low platelet count. It costs RMB 1000 every time the blood bank provides blood for him. His story has been reported in the Nanjing newspaper recently. If you have this blood type, please donate blood to the boy.

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