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‘I was told I’d die if I had a baby’

Women who survive a heart attack caused by a condition called SCAD are usually told not to have chil..

Women who survive a heart attack caused by a condition called SCAD are usually told not to have children due to the risk of it happening again. Now the first babies are being born at the world's first clinic that helps heart attack survivors to have a baby.

Hayley Martin, 47, vividly remembers the morning her life changed forever.

"I woke up and I felt very, very poorly. I put my hands to my head and I was drenched in sweat. I knew straight away it was a heart attack," she told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

She was a healthy 38-year-old when she had a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), a rare and often undiagnosed condition.

It is the leading cause of heart attacks in women of childbearing age, affecting around 1,000 women a year.

It occurs when there is a sudden tear in one of the coronary arteries, blocking the flow of blood to the heart.

In hospital, Hayley, from Congleton in Cheshire, feared the worst.

"I can remember saying to them, 'am I dying?' And they just kept saying, 'we've tried everything we can, but nothing is working,'" she said.

'I felt less of a woman'

She survived, but like many women with SCAD, was told pregnancy would mean the risk of another heart attack.

"I think it was another thing that was stolen from me, so I almost don't allow myself to think about it, because it could take you down a dark path of sadness," Hayley reflected.

"I felt less of a person, less of a woman, more of a failure, like I was faulty."

What is SCAD?

  • Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) is an under-diagnosed heart condition
  • It affects mainly women, occasionally during – or soon after – pregnancy
  • Menopause, extreme stress and exercise have also been associated with it
  • During an attack, a sudden tear or bruise develops in one of the coronary arteries blocking the blood follow
  • It can cause death, heart failure, cardiac arrest, and require heart bypass surgery

Source: Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit

Patient's decision

Hayley is the kind of woman who consultant cardiologist Dr Abi Al-Hussaini is trying to help, with her clinic at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Dr Al-Hussaini assesses the damage done to the heart by the SCAD and reviews the patient's medication, generally lowering the amount they are on.

She uses that information to advise the patient how risky a pregnancy could be.

This does mean sometimes she has to advise that the risk to health might be very high, but the key is the patient makes the decision, rather than the usual blanket advice not to get pregnant.

If one of her patients decides to proceed, they are referred to the pre-existing "high risk pregnancy team" at the hospital, who monitor them throughout the pregnancy.

"I have seen a lot of patients over the last few years who have come to me unhappy that they have been told they cannot have a child ever again," she explained.

"That's one of the reasons I established the clinic, to give these patients the correct advice and allow them to make an informed decision themselves."

She believes a lack of research into the condition is why most cardiologists prefer the blanket advice.

Sharp pain

One of the first women helped by the clinic was Julie Murphy, 40, from Ruislip.

Shortly before her honeymoon in 2013, she started to feel unwell, like she had flu. While on holiday in Kenya, the symptoms got worse.

Then, while swimming, she had a sharp pain in her chest. When she got home, she had tests on her heart and, "the next day I found out I'd had a heart attack".

The days and weeks that followed were very tough.

"All the medication I was on really slowed me down so I couldn't even walk up the stairs when I came home from hospital. That was really difficult to get my head around," she says.

Like Hayley, Julie was initially told she would not be able to have children. But she became part of a research project led by Dr Al-Hussaini and had her first daughter, Holly, in 2015.

'Awesome team'

She then became one of the clinic's first patients when she became pregnant for a second time.

"I was worried that they would say there's no possibility or it would be too dangerous for us to try to have a baby, that it might mean that I'm putting my life at risk," she said.

Bella was born in April.

"They're such an awesome team that you felt so looked after," Julie said.

Despite the hope she is giving patients, Dr Al-Hussaini says she has encountered resistance from doctors around the world, in terms of what advice they give their patients.

"In America, they are against becoming pregnant any time after a heart attack, or having had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection," she said.

"But again, I think that's because there hasn't been a huge amount of research – but there is a growing amount of research at the moment that's been developed."

Follow the Victoria Derbyshire programme on Facebook and Twitter – and see more of our stories here.

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‘Exhilarating’ implant turns thoughts to speech

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people's minds and turn their thoughts ..

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people's minds and turn their thoughts to speech.

The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is "exhilarating".

They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.

Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.

How does it work?

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.

Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.

This results in synthesised speech coming out of a "virtual vocal tract".

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Measles: Half a million UK children missed jab

More than half a million children in the UK were not given a crucial measles jab between 2010 and 20..

More than half a million children in the UK were not given a crucial measles jab between 2010 and 2017, an analysis by children's charity Unicef reveals.

It comes as NHS chief Simon Stevens warned measles cases had almost quadrupled in England in just one year and urged families to get the vaccine.

He said people rejecting vaccines was a "growing public health time bomb".

Globally, the report shows, 169 million children were not given a first dose of measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017.

'Alarming'

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can lead to serious health complications – including infections of the lungs and brain – and is sometimes fatal.

Health experts say children should have two doses of the vaccine to fully protect against the disease.

But, according to Unicef, a mixture of complacency, misinformation, scepticism about immunisations, and a lack of access to jabs has led to inadequate vaccination rates globally.

The report shows that between 2010 and 2017:

  • The US topped the list for the number of unvaccinated children in high-income countries, with 2,593,000 missing the first dose of the vaccine
  • The comparable figure for France was 600,000
  • The UK came third, with 527,000 children not getting their first dose of the vaccine over the seven-year period
  • In Nigeria, four million children under one did not get the first dose of the vaccine

Figures for the second dose of the measles vaccine "were even more alarming", Unicef said.

It found 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had not introduced a second dose, putting more than 17 million infants a year at a greater risk of getting measles as a child. (more…)

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No sedentary screen time for babies, WHO says

Babies and toddlers should not be left to passively watch TV or other screens, according to new Worl..

Babies and toddlers should not be left to passively watch TV or other screens, according to new World Health Organization guidelines.

Sedentary screen time, including computer games, should not happen before a child is two, the WHO says.

The limit for two- to four-year-olds is an hour a day and less is better.

The UK has no plans to update its own advice on screen use, which sets no time limits, although it says children should avoid screens before bedtime.

The UK's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health insists there is little evidence screen use for children is harmful in itself.

The new WHO advice focuses on passive viewing – youngsters being placed in front of a TV or computer screen or handed a tablet or mobile phone for entertainment – and is aimed at tackling child inactivity, a leading risk factor for global mortality and obesity-related ill health.

It is the first time the WHO has made recommendations on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under five.

As well as warning against passive screen time, it says babies should not spend longer than an hour at a time strapped into a buggy, car seat or sling.

The guidelines will be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow on Sunday.

The advice

For babies: (more…)

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Health

‘I was told I’d die if I had a baby’

Women who survive a heart attack caused by a condition called SCAD are usually told not to have chil..

Women who survive a heart attack caused by a condition called SCAD are usually told not to have children due to the risk of it happening again. Now the first babies are being born at the world's first clinic that helps heart attack survivors to have a baby.

Hayley Martin, 47, vividly remembers the morning her life changed forever.

"I woke up and I felt very, very poorly. I put my hands to my head and I was drenched in sweat. I knew straight away it was a heart attack," she told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

She was a healthy 38-year-old when she had a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), a rare and often undiagnosed condition.

It is the leading cause of heart attacks in women of childbearing age, affecting around 1,000 women a year.

It occurs when there is a sudden tear in one of the coronary arteries, blocking the flow of blood to the heart.

In hospital, Hayley, from Congleton in Cheshire, feared the worst.

"I can remember saying to them, 'am I dying?' And they just kept saying, 'we've tried everything we can, but nothing is working,'" she said.

'I felt less of a woman'

She survived, but like many women with SCAD, was told pregnancy would mean the risk of another heart attack.

"I think it was another thing that was stolen from me, so I almost don't allow myself to think about it, because it could take you down a dark path of sadness," Hayley reflected. (more…)

Continue Reading

Health

‘Exhilarating’ implant turns thoughts to speech

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people's minds and turn their thoughts ..

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people's minds and turn their thoughts to speech.

The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is "exhilarating".

They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.

Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.

How does it work?

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.

Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.

This results in synthesised speech coming out of a "virtual vocal tract".

Why do it like that?

You might think it would be easier to scour the brain for the pattern of electrical signals that code for each word.

However, attempts to do so have only had limited success. (more…)

Continue Reading

Health

Measles: Half a million UK children missed jab

More than half a million children in the UK were not given a crucial measles jab between 2010 and 20..

More than half a million children in the UK were not given a crucial measles jab between 2010 and 2017, an analysis by children's charity Unicef reveals.

It comes as NHS chief Simon Stevens warned measles cases had almost quadrupled in England in just one year and urged families to get the vaccine.

He said people rejecting vaccines was a "growing public health time bomb".

Globally, the report shows, 169 million children were not given a first dose of measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017.

'Alarming'

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can lead to serious health complications – including infections of the lungs and brain – and is sometimes fatal.

Health experts say children should have two doses of the vaccine to fully protect against the disease.

But, according to Unicef, a mixture of complacency, misinformation, scepticism about immunisations, and a lack of access to jabs has led to inadequate vaccination rates globally.

The report shows that between 2010 and 2017:

  • The US topped the list for the number of unvaccinated children in high-income countries, with 2,593,000 missing the first dose of the vaccine
  • The comparable figure for France was 600,000
  • The UK came third, with 527,000 children not getting their first dose of the vaccine over the seven-year period
  • In Nigeria, four million children under one did not get the first dose of the vaccine

Figures for the second dose of the measles vaccine "were even more alarming", Unicef said.

It found 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had not introduced a second dose, putting more than 17 million infants a year at a greater risk of getting measles as a child. (more…)

Continue Reading

Health

No sedentary screen time for babies, WHO says

Babies and toddlers should not be left to passively watch TV or other screens, according to new Worl..

Babies and toddlers should not be left to passively watch TV or other screens, according to new World Health Organization guidelines.

Sedentary screen time, including computer games, should not happen before a child is two, the WHO says.

The limit for two- to four-year-olds is an hour a day and less is better.

The UK has no plans to update its own advice on screen use, which sets no time limits, although it says children should avoid screens before bedtime.

The UK's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health insists there is little evidence screen use for children is harmful in itself.

The new WHO advice focuses on passive viewing – youngsters being placed in front of a TV or computer screen or handed a tablet or mobile phone for entertainment – and is aimed at tackling child inactivity, a leading risk factor for global mortality and obesity-related ill health.

It is the first time the WHO has made recommendations on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under five.

As well as warning against passive screen time, it says babies should not spend longer than an hour at a time strapped into a buggy, car seat or sling.

The guidelines will be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow on Sunday.

The advice

For babies: (more…)

Continue Reading

Trending