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Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 00:46 GMT 01:46 UK
Baby hope for lupus sufferers
Tracey Jones waited seven years for baby Chloe
Tracey Jones waited seven years for baby Chloe
Two decades ago pregnant women suffering from lupus would have been advised to have a termination.

Scientists found that out of 100 lupus sufferers 30 have an associated condition called "sticky blood", which causes the placenta to wither and the foetus to abort.

Now the future looks brighter for these women thanks to a simple blood test and medical research.


When Tracey and Stephen Jones began trying for their third child they were unprepared the heartache that would follow.

Seven years of disappointment and three miscarriages later, they eventually had a baby girl.

But Tracey, who suffers from "sticky blood" said the ordeal almost ruined her health.


We were told it was a baby girl. I rushed out to Mothercare and bought two pink baby-grows

Tracey Jones

Rising stress

Her weight ballooned from 11 stone to 16 because of the mounting stress caused by the miscarriages and she was forced to quit her job as a staff nurse at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.

Now a series of simple blood tests will stop families going through the heartache suffered by Tracey and Stephen.

The Jones had their first children Adam and Nicholas without any problems.

But when they decided to try again Tracey miscarried at nine weeks.

"We understood that it happens to one in four women, and we just tried to look to the future.

"Rightly or wrongly I got pregnant again eight weeks later."

Microscopes
Researchers are carrying out trials to improve the chances of healthy births

But despite a promising start to the pregnancy Tracey miscarried again.

"At that point the doctor said to us that I had been dealt a bad hand of cards. Obviously we were fairly traumatised but there was nothing we could do."

She started to suffer severe panic attacks and needed to take Prozac and have counselling.

After her third miscarriage Tracey, aged 37, said she realised there were serious problems.

Tests

A series of blood tests at Liverpool Women's Hospital showed she had antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), also known as "sticky blood".

"I'd never heard of it, but the doctors explained that they thought they could help me by regular injections of heparin and HCG - which is a hormone produced by the placenta to keep the body in a state of pregnancy - plus aspirin.

"We decided to give it a final shot as we couldn't keep going through all that trauma much longer."

The family went off to Florida for a break and when they returned Tracey found she was pregnant again.

She immediately put onto a regime of heparin and HCG, but was unable to relax until she hit the 21 week mark.

"I had a scan and we were told it was a baby girl. I rushed out to Mothercare and bought two pink baby-grows."

In September 2000 she gave birth to Chloe.


We're always very pleased when we can diagnose someone with APS because we have such a good treatment

Dr Siobhan Quenby

Dr Siobhan Quenby, a consultant obstetrician at the Liverpool Women's Hospital, said around 15% of women attending her clinic had the condition.

Diagnosis

She is now carrying out a two-year-study to compare the effects of different doses of heparin and aspirin on the placenta.

Dr Quenby said the prognosis was good once the problem had been diagnosed.

"I have couples in the clinic who have been through this process up to 18 times.

"But we're always very pleased when we can diagnose someone with APS because we have such a good treatment - a cheer goes up around the department. Around 15% of women who attend our clinic have APS."

St Thomas's Hospital Lupus Unit, is also looking into whether a combination of aspirin and warfarin would be more effective in treating thrombosis in APS.

Dr Munther Khmashta said the current treatment for thrombosis in APS is low dose aspirin.

But he hoped his new research would bring many more successful pregnancies.

"Each time a woman with APS gives birth to a healthy baby I share her joy.

"Each baby I've helped to bring into the world is my great prize. The outlook has dramatically changed for the better."

Both studies are funded by the Arthritis Research Campaign.

See also:

20 Jan 00 | Health
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25 Jul 00 | Health
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