Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

Immunoglobulin

Overview

Immunoglobulin (also called gamma globulin or immune globulin) is a substance made from human blood plasma. The plasma, processed from donated human blood, contains antibodies that protect the body against diseases. When you are given an immunoglobulin, your body uses antibodies from other people's blood plasma to help prevent illness. And even though immunoglobulins are obtained from blood, they are purified so that they can't pass on diseases to the person who receives them.

Specific types of immunoglobulin are made to protect against specific diseases. Immunoglobulin injections may:

  • Give short-term protection against or reduce the severity of certain diseases.
  • Protect your fetus if you are pregnant and at risk for Rh sensitization.
  • Decrease the immune system's ability to attack body tissues in some cases of autoimmune disease.
  • Help people who have an inherited problem making their own antibodies or those who are having treatment for certain types of cancer (such as leukemia). Treatments for some cancers can cause the body to stop producing its own antibodies, making immunoglobulin treatment necessary.

Rh sensitization

An Rh immunoglobulin shot is given to pregnant women who have Rh-negative blood.

You may have Rh-negative blood, and your baby may have Rh-positive blood. If the two types of blood mix, your body will make antibodies. This is called Rh sensitization. Most of the time, this is not a problem the first time you're pregnant. But it could cause problems in future pregnancies.

This shot keeps your body from making the antibodies. You get the shot around 28 weeks of pregnancy. After the birth, your baby's blood is tested. If the blood is Rh positive, you will get another shot. You may also get the shot if you have vaginal bleeding while you are pregnant or if you have a miscarriage. These shots protect future pregnancies.

Women with Rh negative blood will need this shot each time they get pregnant.

Credits

Current as of: June 6, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine