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14th March 2024 Latest News

Toolkit to help women with kidney disease become mothers

Shilpa Jesudason

Pregnancy can be complicated and for women with kidney disease, they face even tougher challenges and uncertainty, and a new ‘toolkit’ aims to support women on their journey to motherhood.

Nephrologist and Director of Dialysis at the Central Northern Adelaide Renal and Transplantation Service, Associate Professor Shilpa Jesudason is an advocate for these women, dedicating much of her research to improving the lives and wellbeing of women wanting to become mothers.

In Australia, chronic kidney disease (CKD) may affect up to 3 in every 100 pregnancies, which is 10,000 births per year, and this number is expected to rise with increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Proudly support by Kidney, Transplant and Diabetes Research Australia, A/Prof Jesudason is working to develop an evidence-based kidney mums toolkit to ensure every Australian woman with kidney disease are supported to navigate decisions about parenthood, and safely achieve pregnancy with the best possible maternal and foetal outcomes.

“Approximately 1700 women of childbearing age currently live with dialysis or a kidney transplant. Pregnancies in women with CKD or kidney failure are very complex with higher rates or adverse maternal and foetal outcomes,” A/Prof Jesudason said.

“Mum’s are at risk of preeclampsia, a serious blood pressure disorder and unborn babies are also at risk of not growing well and are at a 50% risk of being born early.”

A/Prof Jesudason is working to reduce the devastating impact CKD can have on women wanting to start a family by:

  • Educating and empowering women to better understand risks and participate in shared decision-making about reproductive health
  • Providing pregnancy counselling to reduce unplanned pregnancies that place women and their babies at risk
  • Counselling women in pre-conception and pregnancy planning
  • Promoting equity in care for Indigenous women with CKD by understanding their experiences, defining their outcomes, identifying gaps and challenges in delivering culturally safe best-practice care
  • Understanding what drives adverse outcomes for pregnancies affected by CKD and use this new evidence to create improvements in pre-conception and pregnancy care.

To further cement this important research and together with Dr Erandi Hewawasam, A/Prof Jesudason has founded Pregnancy and Kidney Research Australia, a program dedicated to obstetric nephrology knowledge in Australia, and one of the largest bodies of work worldwide.

“The new information produced by our research team gets looped back into clinics to directly benefit women in South Australia. Our work also contributes to state level, national and international guidelines and protocols for care,” A/Prof Jesudason said.

“Pregnancy care for women is a major challenge, but we are working towards improving maternal and infant outcomes in these women.”

We look forward to updating you on A/Prof Jesudason’s work.