Improving care for pregnant women in Port Stephens

A supplied image of an ultrasound of a pregnant woman.
A supplied image of an ultrasound of a pregnant woman.

Exciting new changes are afoot to improve the way antenatal care is to be delivered to pregnant women in Port Stephens and Newcastle.

Dr Mark Adamski, from Providence Medical at Shoal Bay and Anna Bay, said that it was likely the changes in first trimester screening would reduce the frequency of premature births and eliminate the risks and heartache associated with prematurity.

"We are undertaking a new concept which will see the introduction of blood tests to expectant mothers at 11 weeks, followed by a visit to the John Hunter Hospital's Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit at 12 weeks," Dr Adamski said.

"In addition to the routine tests and assessments of early pregnancies, pregnant women can now request the 11 weeks blood test to include the placental growth hormone, to be followed a week later with a referral to the JHH maternal unit to complete a combined first trimester screen for the expectant mother.

"This new, extended process at 12 weeks is to more accurately identify women and pregnancies at high risk of pre-eclampsia in particular, and other illnesses which can lead to illnesses in both mothers and babies.

"The 11 weeks blood test will test not only for free BetaHGG and pregnancy associated plasma protein A, but also a new test, known as the Placental Growth Factor, while the maternal fetal unit at John Hunter is increasing its resources to be able to take on the increased number of women being more intensely screened at 12 weeks."

Dr Adamski said that the tests could be performed at no cost to the patient through Pathology North at New Lambton Heights, or through alternative pathology providers where a fee may be incurred.

"It is important that these results are made available to Maternal Fetal Medicine, where each woman will have an exhaustive assessment at 12 weeks including risk factors which may affect the pregnancy and an ultra-sound, which assesses nuchal translucency (a sonographic prenatal screening scan) to detect cardiovascular abnormalities in a fetus as well as trying to identify any other risks to the pregnancy.

"In this way we know we can more confidently place women either into a high risk group who will then be followed more closely, or a low risk group who can safely continue to receive routine antenatal care through shared care with their GPs of through the already available midwife clinics."

By doing this, Dr Adamski said they would be able to more appropriately direct increased resources and care to those women and pregnancies who need them and "reduce the frequency of premature births with all the risks and heartache associated with prematurity."

Contact Anna Bay or Shoal Bay medical centres for further information.