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Delivering good news to pregnant women

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May 05, 2018

When Hannah Torres started feeling incredibly ill during her final days of pregnancy, she brushed the symptoms off.

‘‘I had felt sick for a few days but I just thought, ‘well I’m pregnant, this can happen’,’’ she said.

The Shepparton mother had a strong headache, poor vision and had puffed up from fluid.

With a planned caesarean just days away, Ms Torres headed to the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, where she discovered she was suffering from pre-eclampsia.

But that was just the start of Ms Torres’ journey, when she was rushed in for an emergency caesarean.

‘‘Usually when you deliver, the pre-eclampsia goes away,’’ she said.

But after safely delivering her now-six-month-old son Mateo, Ms Torres’ symptoms worsened.

‘‘I had a few nights in the intensive care unit,’’ she said.

Although Ms Torres’ symptoms eventually eased and she was able to take her healthy baby boy home, she would not have faced the same situation if a new blood test had come into effect.

The Royal Women’s Hospital this week became the first Australian hospital to introduce a new blood test which will predict who will and will not develop the potentially deadly condition.

The test, called pre-eclampsia ratio test comes after the hospital’s pregnancy research director Shaun Brennecke led the international study trialling the new test which found it could predict the likelihood of women developing pre-eclampsia in the following four weeks.

‘‘Currently, the only way to cure pre-eclampsia is to end the pregnancy by delivering the baby, even if the pregnancy is still many weeks from full term, in which case such prematurity can have significant implications for the long-term health of the baby,’’ Prof Brennecke said.

He said they could now reassure women who tested negative that they were very unlikely to develop the condition in the next four weeks.

‘‘This significantly reduces anxiety, especially for women who have experienced pre-eclampsia in the past and, therefore, are at a much higher risk of developing it again,’’ Prof Brennecke said.

‘‘It allows us to focus our health resources on those at high-risk for pre-eclampsia.’’

Women with risk factors for the condition will be prescribed a low aspirin dose from 12 weeks during pregnancy which reduces the risk of developing pre-eclampsia later in the pregnancy.

Ms Torres said pre-eclampsia could result in liver failure, heart attack and stroke and it put her mind at ease knowing she could take PERT for future pregnancies.

‘‘Knowing for future pregnancies I can have a test to tell me if I’m at risk of developing it again, I think that’s wonderful,’’ she said.

Ms Torres has featured in the Royal Women’s Hospital Miracle Mums Appeal as a result of her pre-eclampsia experience.

The appeal aims to raise $30000 to support the hospital’s life-saving pregnancy and newborn research.

To donate visit www.thewomens.org. au/donate/miracle-mums-appeal

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