New Study Finds Non-Invasive Test Can Detect Preeclampsia Early in Pregnancy

It can help diagnose it before the troubling symptoms start to show.
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ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Mar 2019
woman in early pregnancy touching her belly
Photo: July Prokopiv

An imaging technique used to detect some forms of cancer can also be used to help detect preeclampsia early in pregnancy, a new study says.

Preeclampsia is a condition that develops when you have a combination of high blood pressure and the appearance of protein in your urine, which is a sign your kidneys aren’t working 100 percent. It accounts for 14 percent of global maternal deaths annually, and affects 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies. It’s usually diagnosed after week 20 of pregnancy.

The new study was conducted on pregnant rats using spectral photoacoustic imaging, which is a non-invasive procedure that can detect placental ischemia—a sign of possible preeclampsia. The best part is it catches it early on, before common symptoms, such as high blood pressure, severe headaches and dizziness, start to show. And because it’s a non-invasive procedure, it poses little to no risk to the fetus, compared to other tests that can be a bit more dangerous, such as cordocentesis.

Researchers observed images of placentas of rats with a normal pregnancy and those with preeclampsia during different stages of gestation. On average, two days after detecting preeclampsia the placental oxygenation decreased 12 percent compared to normal rats.

Preeclampsia is largely out of your control, but it’s a serious condition. This new study has the potential to be life-changing for some, because the earlier preeclampsia is detected, the easier it is for your doctor to monitor it for your and baby’s safety.

Back in 2015, Kim Kardashian opened up about her fears of developing preeclampsia again with her second child. Her struggles ultimately led her to have her third and soon-to-be fourth child via surrogate.

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