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The BBC's Daniela Relph
"Around a 100 pregnancies a year are threatened in this way"
 real 56k

The Sibley family
"It's gradually sinking in day by day"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 14:02 GMT
Womb injections save baby
Family
Nicola, James and Darren Sibley
A baby given just a 1% chance of survival by doctors is thriving, thanks to pioneering treatment given to him during pregnancy.

James David Sibley - named after the professor who saved him - is now seven weeks old, was threatened because his mother Nicola, from Blaby in Leicestershire, developed rhesus haemolytic disease.


It's a miracle to me because I never thought I would have another child and he's just lovely."

Nicola Sibley
Normally, the baby - even if it has a different blood group to the mother - is protected from attack by her immune system.

However, in this condition, which affects women with the uncommon rhesus negative blood group, immune system antibodies are able to cross the placenta and attack the baby in the womb.

Eventually the baby's blood cells are overwhelmed by the assault and it suffers heart failure.

Nicola had already lost two babies this way, in 1994 and 1997.

This time, however, Professor David James, from Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, tried a revolutionary two-pronged technique, both trying to block the immune system attack, and giving blood transfusions to keep the baby alive.

'Unusual treatment'

Professor James said: "She had in her circulation antibodies which could cross the placenta and attack and destroy his red blood cells - and it is for this reason that we had to consider unusual treatments."

At 19 weeks, immunoglobulin, which protects the blood cells from antibody attack by the mother, was given via a drip to a tiny vein developing in the foetus' liver.

And at 16 weeks, the professor was able to give a blood transfusion directly into a vein in the abdomen - this was repeated nine times.

Nicola was also given treatment to suppress the immune response that was threatening her unborn child.

James was delivered at 34 weeks and has thrived ever since.

Nicola told BBC News: "It's a miracle to me because I never thought I would have another child and he's just lovely.

"They actually told me that it would be a 99% chance that I would lose the baby - so it was one of those pregnancies where every day was a challenge.

"I was told to actually monitor the kicking, sometimes I used to get up at 3am to feel the baby kick so I could be reassured."

Her husband Darren said: "If the membrane holding the baby had broken, Nicola would have gone into Labour, but the bigger the baby got, the risk got less and less."

Approximately 100 pregnancies in the UK are threatened in this way each year.

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See also:

06 Feb 00 | Health
Test safer for unborn babies
01 Jan 00 | Health
Baby born to dead mother
10 Dec 00 | Health
New hope to cut premature births
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