Historical Parliamentary Pre-eclampsia Debate

Published on: 14/05/2019

On Thursday 9th May 2019, history was made in the Houses of Parliament as MP’s held the first ever debate on Pre-eclampsia, a condition which is a complication during pregnancy. Even though we have some of the best health care in the world, Pre-eclampsia still takes the lives of many women and babies every year, and is one of the most common reasons for pre-term births. The organisation Action on Pre-eclampsia called for the debate, along with Patricia Gibson MP for North Ayrshire, who saw the need for the discussion to be pushed up the political agenda.

What is Pre-eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that causes hypertension (high blood pressure) and significant protein in the urine of pregnant women, most commonly after the 20th week of pregnancy. If undetected it can progress into a serious illness with risks to the mother and unborn baby, like oxygen deficiency. The only way to stop the condition progressing is to deliver the baby. A woman’s chances of dying from Pre-eclampsia has been significantly reduced in the UK, however it still causes a high number of babies to be delivered prematurely. This can leave a child with long term health risks or even be fatal, which is a tragic reality for women such as Patricia Gibson MP.

What are the symptoms?

. Severe headache that won’t go away, sometimes with vomiting

. Obvious swelling of the face, hands or feet (especially affecting the hands, face or upper body)

. Severe pain just below the ribs in the middle of your abdomen

. Visual disturbances such as blurring, flashing lights or spots

. Reduced fetal movement

. Nausea or vomiting 

If you experience any of these symptoms, or something just doesn’t feel quite right, you should seek advice from a midwife or health professional straight away. These warning signs are printed on MAMA’s Wellbeing Wallets as a visual aid to check symptoms and give the confidence to make that call if needed. If you do not yet have a wallet, or know someone who would benefit from a wallet then please visit our online shop.

What issues were discussed?

There are currently no standard pathways to monitor the long term health of women who have suffered Pre-eclampsia. The condition can lead to further illnesses such as Cardiovascular Disease and Kidney Disease which can shorten life expectancy. Action on Pre-eclampsia feel this needs to be addressed, as once women are discharged from hospital and their maternity team, they rarely receive any follow up care.

They highlighted the need for on going research into better treatments for Pre-eclampsia, such as the PGF (Placental Growth Factor) blood test, which has been found highly accurate in detecting Pre-eclampsia early in women, meaning savings to the NHS could be made in the long term. This test is available but isn’t always delivered, even after very successful research and testing.

A call on the NHS to adopt a Life Course Focus and not just a Pregnancy Disease Focus, as the immediate cost for extra care for women with the condition is around £80,000,000 per year. If common risk factors are properly identified and investigated, this gives a better window of opportunity to intervene.

There is still an unacceptable level of preventable stillbirths, where women have reported they felt they were not taken seriously or their symptoms were not fully investigated. Pre-eclampsia is a deadly condition that affects women and babies all over the world, and it is estimated around 14% of maternal deaths are linked to this condition.

A call for extended paternity leave for fathers of sick and premature babies to be standard, and better emotional, physical, and financial advice to be available in one pathway.

Where can I find out more about Pre-eclampsia?

For further information on Pre-eclampsia for public and professional support, please visit Action on Pre-eclampsia

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