New Test Could Predict Your Preeclampsia Risk in Early Pregnancy

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ByKylie McConville
Mar 2017
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Attention moms-to-be: Research published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation noted that a new test that checks the level of placental protein could help doctors determine your risk for severely high blood pressure during your pregnancy. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, high blood pressure only affects six to eight percent of pregnant women in the US, but more and more instances of preeclampsia have raised the need for early intervention strategies.

What is preeclampsia? It’s condition that’s a combination of high blood pressure and the appearance of protein in your urine (which is a sign that your kidneys aren’t working 100 percent). It’s also known as toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension and is usually diagnosed after week 20. If Kim did have the pregnancy condition, chances are she would have known about it after visiting with her doctor at (or after) week 20 during her pregnancy. A noticeable symptom of the condition is swelling in your hands, feet and face and is also marked by an excessive weight gain of more than four pounds in one week.

So researchers included 625 patients from various centers in the UK (with 61 percent dealing with preeclampsia) to determine whether or not this test could identify women at heightened risk for preeclampsia earlier on in their pregnancies. They noted that of the 61 percent with preeclampsia, their protein placental growth factor contained protein levels lower than 100 pg/mL at 35 weeks pregnant. Comparatively, in a normal pregnancy, women factor 100-3,000 pg/mL protein levels (and they don’t decrease).

“The test is designed to differentiate women with preeclampsia from those with high blood pressure alone,” said Lucy Chappell, Ph.D., clinical senior lecturer in Obstetrics at King’s College in London. “Current tests for the condition only detect that it’s happening, rather than predicting it, and by that time the disease has progressed and has likely already caused organ damage.” So researchers are aiming for faster detection that’s more reliable and accurative. “This test identifies women at high risk for developing preeclampsia,” she said, “so doctors can better monitor and treat the blood pressure. It also prevents unnecessary hospitalizations of those who are not likely to develop preeclampsia.” Do you think a test could help identify possible preeclampsia cases sooner?

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