The Fact Maker

ISSHP World Congress 2023: Pragnya – Asia’s First Global Gathering to Tackle Pre-eclampsia and Elevate Maternal Health Awareness In India

Bangalore: The International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy (ISSHP) World Congress 2023 – Pragnya is poised to make history by focusing on a crucial and often overlooked aspect of maternal health – Preeclampsia. This groundbreaking event, taking place in Bangalore, India, from September 24 to 27, 2023, will address the pressing need to spread awareness about Preeclampsia, a potentially fatal pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure.

A Preeclampsia Wake-Up Call in India

Recent studies have sounded the alarm about Preeclampsia in India, with an incidence of about 5% to 8% among pregnant women.  Hospital practice data reveals an even higher incidence of Preeclampsia, varying between 5% to 15%, making it one of the leading causes of maternal and infant mortality in the country. Lack of awareness among expectant mothers and their families is a major contributing factor to delayed medical intervention.

Empowering Lives through Awareness

The ISSHP World Congress 2023 – Pragnya launches with the compelling narratives of two Preeclampsia survivors who will share their personal journeys. Renowned doctors and experts, including Dr. Prakash K Mehta, Organising Chairperson of ISSHP World Congress 2023, Dr. Revathi S Rajan, Organising Secretary of ISSHP World Congress 2023, Distinguished Professor Dr. Annemarie Hennessy, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Health and Medicine, WSU, and President, ISSHP and Dr. Sarosh Rana, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Section Chief, Maternal-Foetal Medicine, The University of Chicago, Chicago, US, and Secretary, ISSHP will lend their expertise to this important discussion.

Chief Guests Prof. Govindan Rangarajan, Director of IISC, Bangalore, and Romal Shetty, CEO of Deloitte South Asia, will also grace the inaugural event of the Congress to be held at JN Tata Auditorium Complex at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru on September 25.

A Milestone Moment: The World’s First-of-its-Kind Comprehensive Book on Preeclampsia

The ISSHP World Congress 2023 – Pragnya will witness the soft launch of an unparalleled resource – Preeclampsia, An Enigma Unravelled, A Global Perspective, the world’s first-of-its-kind comprehensive book on Preeclampsia. This book, a collaborative effort between International Society of Obstetric Medicine (ISOM) and Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (India) – SMFM (I), aims to fill a critical knowledge gap and serve as a reference point for medical professionals and expectant parents alike.

The extensive book will have over 15 sections, 80 chapters and contributors from across the world – US, Europe, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and an array of authors from India who have specialised in Preeclampsia. The final book is due to be released in January, 2024. Also, the book boasts of a specific chapter  contributed by the patient support group and advocacy organisation – the Preeclampsia Foundation. While common in the West, this is one of the first attempts by non-doctors to contribute to a medical textbook, indicating the inclusivity of care for Preeclampsia in India.

Charting New Frontiers: Launch of Suraksha,  A Support Group for Preeclampsia

The conference will see the initiation of Suraksha, an independent support group for Preeclampsia in India. Suraksha will build the confidence of the patients to persevere under the monitoring of a specialised doctor. The video from the Preeclampsia Foundation that will be played before the launch of Suraksha on September 27, has been designed to showcase collaborative opinions of patient advocacy groups from across the world.

A Global Gathering of Minds: Unprecedented Insights

The ISSHP World Congress 2023 – Pragnya will host 120 presentations on the diagnosis, treatment, and research of Preeclampsia. These presentations will be delivered by experts from across the globe, marking a historic moment in the fields of obstetrics, gynaecology, and neonatal care.

Expert Voices on the Importance of the Congress

Dr. Annemarie Hennessy, President- ISSHP, emphasises, “This Congress is a pivotal moment for maternal health worldwide. The challenges of diagnosing and treating Preeclampsia are formidable, but events like this can catalyse the change we need, especially in a country like India with a significant population that is difficult  to monitor one-on-one.”

Dr. Prakash K Mehta, Organising Chairperson, ISSHP World Congress 2023, echoes this sentiment, saying, “Preeclampsia poses a significant threat to expectant mothers and infants. We must realise that signs and symptoms of Preeclampsia are often ignored due to the lack of awareness on this critical issue. This Congress is a beacon of hope, uniting experts to confront this challenge head-on. For the first ever time in India, this Congress will emphasise on consolidating Preeclampsia care in India with an effort to educate and empower all stakeholders in the process – from expectant mothers to their husbands, immediate family members, nurses, hospital staff, doctors and AYUSH workers.”

Dr. Revathi S Rajan, Organising Secretary, ISSHP World Congress 2023, underscores the need for a holistic approach, stating, “Preeclampsia affects not only mothers but entire families. Their awareness about the condition can save several lives, if they reach out to doctors on time. This Congress will also highlight the importance of Preeclampsia support groups as a source of awareness and strength to one and all, so that all of us could come together and tackle the top killer of pregnant mothers and newborns in our country.”

Case Studies Validate the Urgency

During her first pregnancy, Vidya (name changed), 21, noticed leg swelling during the 7th month of gestation. By the 8th month, she experienced elevated blood pressure, headaches, and upper abdominal pain. She underwent a caesarean section, but her condition worsened as she developed convulsions. She was urgently referred to the Maternal Foetal Medicine unit at Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital. Her blood clotting system showed abnormalities, and she suffered massive post-delivery bleeding.

“What should have been a joyous moment for her family turned into anxiety and despair. Thanks to three days of intensive treatment and multiple blood transfusions, she was rescued from the brink of death. This case underscores the critical importance of early detection and intervention in Preeclampsia,” added Dr. Prakash K Mehta.

Rajani (name changed) had a high-risk history of first pregnancy, during which she developed hypertension at 20 weeks and eventually developed severe Preeclampsia at 34 to 35 weeks, necessitating an emergency C-section. Her premature baby faced numerous health challenges, including epilepsy, due to reduced oxygen delivery and prematurity.

“When she approached us during her second pregnancy, we began our procedure to address the root cause. It was identified as a clotting disorder and an autoimmune condition. We initiated treatment with anticoagulants and immunomodulatory therapy to control the predisposing factors for Preeclampsia. Throughout her second pregnancy, she was closely monitored using biomarkers, a novel blood test, that helped the doctors to identify the severity of Preeclampsia well ahead of time and much before she actually started feeling sick. She was identified to have HELLP, a condition that marks Preeclampsia with severe features, and had to undergo an emergency C-section at 36 weeks. With proper planning and access to necessary medical resources, we successfully delivered her. While the mother required blood transfusions, her recovery was smooth due to the anticipated and controlled approach. Also, the baby did not require an extensive NICU stay. This case highlights the systematic management of Preeclampsia and the importance of patient and family awareness, enabling timely medical intervention and preventing further complications”, added Dr. Revathi S Rajan.

Spreading Awareness: The Ultimate Goal

“The ISSHP World Congress 2023 – Pragnya is more than just a conference, it’s a movement. By bringing together experts, survivors, and stakeholders, this event aims to rewrite the narrative of maternal health, ensuring that no mother or child falls victim to the silent threat of Preeclampsia. The Congress is an international collaborative effort towards an educational and awareness pyramid on Preeclampsia, covering the tip to the bottom and educating all sections of society – starting from the specialists, general practitioners, nurses, support staff, other allied doctors and the community,” said Dr. Sarosh Rana.