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“I was so scared. There were higher risks involved, and because I didn’t know what I was dealing with, I didn’t know what it meant for my babies or me.”

When Laura found out she was having twins, she was excited but also nervous as a first-time mother-to-be. She was tired during her pregnancy, and she put on a lot of weight, but she expected that.

What she didn’t expect was to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 28 weeks, followed by the second blow of a preeclampsia diagnosis at 32 weeks.

I kept think­ing, Is every­thing going to be okay? Are my babies going to be okay?’”

With her blood pressure dangerously high, Laura was kept under close observation during the final weeks of her pregnancy, and was eventually hospitalised prior to delivery.

Laura’s condition meant her babies had to be delivered by a caesarean and three weeks premature. She barely had time to hold her little boys before they were rushed off to the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for treatment and care. The blood pressure drugs Laura was on also made her very drowsy, making it difficult for her to hold her babies.

It was a very dif­fi­cult and stress­ful time because of the C‑section. I couldn’t real­ly walk, and I couldn’t be with my children.”

Laura spent another week in hospital waiting for her babies to come out of the NICU. When it was finally time for her to go home, Laura was told one of her baby boys was still not strong and healthy enough to leave.

“In the end, for my mental health the doctor recommended I go home. For the next week I went back and forth to the hospital to be with him. It felt like I was lacking connection with him.”

Today, Laura and both her kids are doing well. But Laura hasn’t forgotten her experience. As well as having regular checks with her GP, she’s keeping an eye on her diet and exercise to maintain her health. She is also a passionate advocate for medical research.

Having money for heart research means a screening test for preeclampsia or gestational diabetes during pregnancy could be introduced much earlier. This would help both mother and baby.


How is HRI helping?

HRI is tackling the urgent problem of cardiovascular diseases such as preeclampsia from a broad range of research angles. Our Vascular Immunology Group is currently investigating ways that provide for safer prolongation of pregnancy without premature delivery. In addition, they are examining the role of aspirin and its effect in preeclampsia prevention. In partnership with research groups in the USA and Sweden, the team is also investigating the effect and safety of the new treatments targeting the placenta, for use in early severe preeclampsia.

Cardiologist Dr Clare Arnott is a Visiting Scientist with HRI who has established NSW’s first Women’s Heart Clinic that focuses on gender-specific risk factors such as hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. The clinic approaches care from a holistic angle, including lifestyle and dietary modification, and general care, and is overseen by female physicians. Dr Arnott leverages her science research for her initiative using HRI’s state-of-the-art facilities.

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