New pre-eclampsia test brings hope to pregnant mums like Georgie Withers from Leverington
A Fenland mum has welcomed new tests that will help diagnosis a potentially life-threatening condition in pregnant women.
Georgie Withers, a trained paramedic, believes the new testing, which is being recommended for routine use in the NHS by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will help spot pre-eclampsia earlier and potentially save the lives of mums and their unborn babies.
The 33-year-old has added her voice to a campaign by the charity Action on Pre-eclampsia in welcoming the test, which can rule in or rule out the development of the condition, which affects one in 10 pregnancies and can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby if not monitored and treated.
Previously the tests could only rule out pre-eclampsia, now they can be used to rule it in, and the ability to predict which women are likely to develop pre-eclampsia in the coming weeks will help clinicians to decide on the most appropriate care and level of monitoring, and the need for hospitalisation.
Luckily for Georgie, who is married to Warren, her training as a paramedic meant, unlike many women, she was aware of the condition and its early tell-tale symptoms, so when she developed swelling in her hands and feet she knew pre-eclampsia was a possible cause especially added to the high blood pressure she was experiencing
Georgie, from Leverington, was about 29 weeks pregnant with daughter Freya and despite being reassured by friends and family the swelling was the result of her "over doing it" and the hot weather, because it was July, she sought medical help.
Unfortunately despite medication and being admitted to hospital Georgie's condition continued to deteriorate and eventually doctors decided an emergency Caesarean was needed to save both her life and that of her baby girl.
"I was petrified because I knew the most precious thing to me in the World was going to be delivered so early and I knew it was going to be a fight for her," said Georgie.
Freya was born 10 weeks early weighing just 2lbs 6ozs at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and was whisked straight off to the neonatal intensive care unit. She was so premature that neither Georgie nor Warren were able to give her a cuddle before she was taken away.
Georgie ended up back in the high dependency unit as her blood pressure continued to remain high, even though the swelling had decreased almost immediately after the birth.
She said: "I could easily have ignored the symptoms, but my training meant I knew things were not right. I'm speaking out because I want other women to know the danger signs and to also welcome news of the testing.
"Warren and I are both set on adding to our family and I have been told there is a strong possibility I will suffer with pre-eclampsia again.
"But the test will hopefully pick it up earlier and ensure I get medical help sooner and I won't develop such severe symptoms.
"I still suffer from the anxieties as a result of what I had to go through, but knowing the test is there is comforting and hopefully it will enable women to get treatment as early as possible."
Freya, who is now two, and is thriving spent 37 days in the neonatal intensive care unit before being allowed home weighing 4lbs 6ozs.
Georgie spent 11 days in hospital recovering from the affects of the pre-eclampsia. It was two days before she was allowed back on to the maternity ward and was able to spend time with her baby.
"It was the worst feeling in the world leaving hospital without my baby, but I'm lucky that I was able to do that and to eventually bring her home.
"I want women to know about pre-eclampsia and to recognise the symptoms so they can get the help they need as soon as possible."
Geoff Twist, managing director of Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland, which produces one of four tests recommended for use by NICE, said: “The importance of knowing you or your loved one is receiving the right care during pregnancy cannot be overstated. Pre-eclampsia can be a devastating condition but we also know it needn’t be if it is diagnosed and treated early.
“We hope that NICE’s recommendations of routine testing for pre-eclampsia across the NHS in England and Wales will bring many positive benefits including greater confidence to clinicians in diagnosing and treating this potentially life-threatening condition; much needed clarity for expectant parents; and a reduction in unnecessary hospital admissions.
“These benefits should be available to all expectant parents, regardless of where they live, which is why it is important that all UK nations adopt these new recommendations and provide the same level of access to pre-eclampsia testing.”
Marcus Green, chief executive officer of Action on Pre-eclampsia said: “Pregnancy can be both a joyous and anxious time, and improving early diagnosis of pre-eclampsia is essential so that mothers and babies can get the care they need.
"We’re pleased to see this vital new NICE guidance which we hope will have a significant impact on expectant families in England and Wales both by giving them and their clinicians reassurance, or escalating care when needed. But it can’t stop there – there is a postcode lottery that means some trusts are yet to take this up, and nationally implementation is patchy. This has to end.”
For more details on Pre-eclampsia visit the Action on Pre-eclampsia website.