Pioneering new research could help to prevent baby deaths in Southwark, after it was revealed the borough is home to a fifth of all patients suffering from a deadly blood disorder in the UK.
The Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Trust (GSTT) estimates 30 percent of all babies born to mothers with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) in the UK are delivered in Southwark, so it has led a new study into the hereditary blood disorder’s effects on pregnancy.
There are around 15,000 patients in the UK suffering from the disease, in which red blood cells are deformed into a sickle shape and an astonishing 3,000 of these live in Southwark.
The new research shows that women with a severe form of the disease are six times more likely to die during or after pregnancy, with an increased risk of stillbirth and premature birth.
Dr Eugene Oteng-Ntim, consultant obstetrician at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and co-author of the study, is hopeful the results can help doctors identify women with the highest risk of complications, who are largely from a African and Caribbean backgrounds, so they can treat and manage their pregnancies safely. “Until twenty years ago, women with SCD were not expected to live to child-bearing age. Because of recent medical advancements, our patients are receiving the treatment they need and living to an age where they are having their own children,” said Dr Eugene Oteng-Ntim
“We finally have some robust data that doctors and obstetricians around the world can refer to, enabling them to give the best care they can to mothers and babies. This analysis is a first step toward improving universal care for all who suffer from this disease.”
Researchers from GSTT studied 26,349 pregnant women with SCD and 26,151,746 pregnant women who shared common attributes with SCD patients like ethnicity, but were healthy.
The study is the first to confirm the health risks facing pregnant women with SCD in their study and was published last week in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology.
Disease can cause pain and death
Sickle Cell Disease is a hereditary blood disorder, which can lead to strokes, severe infections and death and is prevalent in ethnic minority communities.
The 300,000 babies worldwide born every year with the disease produce abnormal haemoglobin, a protein that helps carry oxygen throughout the body.
Normal red blood cells are flexible and disc-shaped, but a defect causes them to become rigid and shaped like a crescent (or sickle) instead, blocking the flow of blood and oxygen to the body and causing intense pain and other complications. The disorder mainly affects people of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean and Asian origin. In the UK, sickle cell disorders are most commonly seen in African and Caribbean people.