Pre-eclampsia (PE) is the most common serious medical disorder of human pregnancy. Particularly in their first pregnancy, pregnant women can suffer from high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction leading to leakage of protein into the urine, swelling of hands, feet and face, and, in severe cases, dizziness, headaches and difficulties with vision. This condition is called pre-eclampsia. If left untreated, it can lead to convulsions and other life-threatening problems for both mother and baby. Pre-eclampsia only occurs when a woman is pregnant, and currently, the only cure for it is to end the pregnancy, even if the baby is not yet ready for birth.
In Australia, mild pre-eclampsia occurs in 5-10% of pregnancies and severe pre-eclampsia in 1-2% of pregnancies. Pre-eclampsia and complications associated with this condition account for 15% of direct maternal mortality and 10% of perinatal mortality. Pre-eclampsia is the indication for 20% of labour inductions and 15% of Caesarean sections. It also accounts for 5-10% of preterm deliveries. Worlwide, pre-eclampsia and its complications kill many tens of thousands of women and their babies each year.
There is compelling evidence that in many cases pre-eclampsia has a genetic basis, albeit a complex one. With funding support from the National Institutes of Health in the USA, we are undertaking a comprehensive genetic analysis of Australian families affected by PE and have found evidence for a susceptibility’ region on chromosome 2. We are now focussing our efforts on this chromosome 2 region to identify the gene(s) responsible.
The potential significance of this project is threefold. Firstly, when the gene is identified, the production of a clinical test both for the early (pre-pregnancy) detection of women at risk and for the actual diagnosis of pre-eclampsia in cases of clinical uncertainty would become feasible. Secondly, such a test, in turn, would facilitate early preventive treatment and thereby improve the outcome for mothers and babies. Thirdly, the knowledge gained would guide further studies on the causes of pre-eclampsia and aid in the development of new treatments for it.
How is AAPEC Helping?
- Providing support and information to families who have experienced PE/E.
- Educating, informing, and advising the public and health professionals about PE/E.
- PE is very common in pregnancy, accounting for 5-10% of preterm deliveries.
- Severe PE occurs in 1-2% of pregnancies, especially during first pregnancies.
- PE and associated complications account for 15% of direct maternal mortality and 10% of perinatal mortality.
- PE leads to 20% of labour inductions and 15% of Caesarean sections.
- High BP
- Protein in urine
- Swelling of hands, feet and face
- Dizziness, headaches and vision problems (in severe cases).
CURE & TREATMENT:
- Currently, the only cure is to have the baby delivered even if it means the baby has to be born prematurely.