Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blood Antibodies and Pregnancy, anti-Jka

Midway through my first trimester with L, my OB informed me that my routine blood tests  reported a positive antibody titer.  She determined that I was carrying the anti-Jka antibody.  Since I did not test positive for this when I was pregnant with M and I had not had a blood transfusion since he was born, we determined that the antibodies in my blood probably came from M's blood mixing with mine during his delivery.  I am no scientist, but from what I gather, Steve passed to M a blood component that was "normal" in him, but "foreign" to my body.  When M's blood somehow infiltrated mine, it made my body think that it should build a defense against this component just in case it should ever encounter this particular creature again.  

Now that I was pregnant a second time, those antibodies became an issue as they could potentially recognize this foreign blood in the baby that I was carrying, and attack.  Eventually this could result in hemolytic disease of the newborn.  My anti-Jka antibodies, which target antigens in the Kidd blood group, can travel across the placenta and attack the fetus's red blood cells if it happens to be carrying components of the Kidd blood group.  Over time, this can result in severe anemia and ultimately multi-organ failure in the baby.  The good news was that if the baby could be born without my antibodies attacking, meaning the baby was not carrying the antigens, then there was no further risk to the child.  This was strictly a problem in utero.

When my doctor was explaining all of this to me, I kept flashing back to what I had briefly read about the Rh sensitization and I knew, or I thought I knew, that there was some sort of shot, or something, that was able to help women who were dealing with that.  I asked my OB and she gently told us that there was nothing we could do about the antibodies except undergo regular blood tests to monitor their levels.  As long as they stayed low, then all was well.  Should my antibody levels start to rise, then that would be an indicator that teeny tiny baby L carried the offensive antigens.  If that happened, my OB would conduct further blood tests to confirm fetal anemia and in the worst-case scenario teeny tiny Baby L would have to undergo an intrauterine blood transfusion or she would undergo transfusions in the newborn period depending on far along in my pregnancy I was.

Naturally, this was all ridiculously impossible to wrap my head around.  Antibodies?  Antigens?  Kidd blood group??  Why didn't I pay more attention in "biology for non-majors" in undergrad?  Of course I went to the internet and I did not find much - either complicated, medical-jargon heavy articles or other moms in my position posting questions on assorted forums.  I found stories with happy endings and stories with tragic endings.  Eventually, I made myself stop scouring the internet and I trusted what my doctor said.  At every appointment, I surrendered a vial of blood and waited for the nurse to call me with the news.

Fortunately, throughout the duration of my pregnancy, my antibody levels remained at safe levels and L was born, as scheduled, on 16 July 2007.  She was born with high billirubin levels and had to be admitted to Kentucky Children's Hospital for a one-night stay where she got to sleep under a special light machine.  Whether or not the antibodies contributed to L's jaundice is debatable.  My antibody levels remained low and she had a mild case of jaundice, but I'm not sure if they would be able to make a significant link between the two.  To be honest, once she was born, we kind of forgot about the antibody business until I received confirmation from my OB that in addition to the anti-Jka antibody that I developed from M, during the course of L's delivery the same scenario had happened and now I had the anti-C antibody (little c antibody).  But more on that later...

30 July 2007


  1. Hello Friends,

    At the time of pregnancy blood test necessary for knowing which antibody is present in our blood. Antigen is a substance that prompts the generation of antibodies and can cause an immune response. These are perfectly normal genetic compound in blood, which is harmful for baby during pregnancy. Thanks...


  2. hi,
    i just found out i have the jka anitbody too, my doctor doesn't seem too worried, but i was curious how often you gave blood to find out if you were making more levels. i know you said every doctors appt, but was that once a month or more often? thanks for your help and explanations

  3. Hi, Thank you for sharing your story! How often, and when did the testing start for you? My story is similar to yours, my first 2 pregnancies where fine, my third miscarried, and here in my forth I have been told I carried the JKA antibody which most likely came from the third pregnancy. My doctor said as long as I was the carrier that I had nothing to worry and no more test were needed. I am 17 weeks and waiting for my husbands blood test to get back. I am kind of questioning my doctor as she went from one extreme to another saying I need a lot more test to doing absolutely nothing......any thoughts? Thank you!

  4. Great story...thanks for sharing. I had the anti-jkb anti-body and what I would have given to read a story like this on a blog. My daughter is two now (almost three) and my scenario turned out similarly. So thank you for getting that story out there for other women who are going through what we went through.

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  7. I just received this same phone call from my OB. You're post has been very reassuring. I have experienced the same panic while trying to frantically research what we are about I go through. Thank you SO much for this blog!