THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Couples wanting to have children even when the woman suffers from lifestyle diseases can now relax as medical advances have eliminated most of the risk factors involved in such pregnancies. Specialist hospitals and doctors have helped in realising the dreams of desperate couples, especially women who have crossed even the age of 35. Sunayna Mohammed, 28, (name changed) of Palakkad, suffered from renal failure eight years ago. As her mother's kidney did not suit her, a transplant was done with her father’s kidney at a multi-specialty hospital in Ernakulam. Later, she got married and conceived and now the couple have a two-year old child, though she came under the high-risk pregnancy category.
Sunayna told DC that her renal failure was due to excessive intake of painkillers coinciding with her menstruation. "I used to take painkiller injections while in college as per the advice of my friends. By the age of 20, both my kidneys started malfunctioning,” she said. Her urologist referred her to Dr. Sabine Sivadasan, infertility specialist at Sabine Hospital and Infertility Research Centre, a 140-bed hospital at Muvattupuzha. “He told me to have babies after the kidney transplantation. There was a miscarriage during my fifth month of the first pregnancy," said Sunayna, who's currently residing in Kochi. After three more months of rest, she conceived again and a healthy boy was born to her. Dr. Sabine told DC that majority of the cases in his hospital fell under the high-risk category.
Gone are the days when women suffering from lifestyle diseases or heart/renal complaints avoided marriage and could not even dream of having babies. Now women take the plunge and the number of high-risk pregnancies has increased over the years. A high-risk pregnancy is one that threatens the health or life of the mother or her foetus. Gestational diabetes, hyper tension, multiple pregnancies, poor foetal growth, labour before expected date are some of the reasons for high-risk pregnancies. For most women, early and regular prenatal care promotes a healthy pregnancy and delivery without complications.
The KIMS hospital in Thiruvananthapuram started the department of perinatal medicine in 2009 under the leadership of Dr R. Vidyalekshmi, an Australian-trained perinatologist. The multi-disciplinary approach with support from high-end specialties and sub-specialties could render quality prenatal care to about 10,000 high- risk maternities in the last eight years with high success rates. Dr. Vidyalekshmi attends a minimum 15 high-risk pregnancies daily these days. "Referrals have gone up by 30 percent this year as more women with lifestyle diseases and heart/renal failure are conceiving. One out of 10 pregnant women have diabetes," says Dr. Vidyalekshmi who sees 300 - 400 high- risk pregnancies every month.
Dr. Vidyalekshmi who has helped more than 5,000 high-risk mothers deliver healthy babies in the last eight years says that more women affected with diabetes are getting pregnant, thanks to the awareness and the strides made by medical technology. But she is worried about pregnant women getting infected with dengue and H1N1 fever. "Along with the high-risk pregnancy cases come the dengue cases. The patient would have to first get rid of dengue and the platelet count has to go up. During the last few months, close to 400 dengue- affected pregnant women were treated in my department," she said. Dr. Sam John Varghese, who heads the Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) specialty wing at Women and Children's Hospital at Thycaud, Thiruvananthapuram, says that a woman who conceives after 35 years falls under the high-risk category. But times are changing and it is no more a taboo for women with pre-existing medical disorders to get married and have babies.
"We provide good care to such women. By doing ultrasound scan and blood tests, we can know in advance about any complications," said Dr. Sam. Experts also vouch that due to changes in lifestyle, women are prone to polycystic ovaries and getting obese which lead to high-risk pregnancies. Government hospitals and patients’ relatives refer high-risk cases to the multi-specialty hospitals which also reduces the mortality rate. Dr. Sheila Balakrishnan, who was instrumental in bringing the first In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) clinic in South India at SAT hospital here in early 2012, told DC that women who marry after 35 years will find it difficult to conceive under normal circumstances. The couple try for IVF after 40 years," said Dr. Sheila. Poor patients who go to government hospitals will benefit if the services of doctors in private hospitals are utilised to take care of them. A proposal submitted by a leading multi-specialty hospital to share public - private expertise is pending before the state government.