Researchers are close to developing a simple test to determine a woman’s risk for preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a condition characterized by high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine. The only “cure” for pre-eclampsia is giving birth. Preeclampsia usually shows up later in pregnancy, though it can happen before the baby reaches term and often results in premature births and low birth weight babies.
Philip Baker of the University of Alberta in Canada, who led the study, says that they’ve identified the “metabolic fingerprint” of women who get preeclampsia. They looked at blood samples of women and found a common set of molecules in the women who would later develop preeclampsia. When they tested women early in pregnancy they were able to detected around 90 %of the cases, with a false positive rate of about 24 %. If they can find a way to perfect a test for these molecules, women could know early on if they are at risk.
Preeclampsia is a bit of a mystery. Several years ago I read this fascinating hypothesis about the condition, but researchers have yet to fully understand what preeclampsia is and why it happens. At present there are risk factors for preeclampsia; midwives and doctors will look for these and keep a closer eye on a high-risk pregnancy but there is no definitive test for predicting the condition.
If a test becomes available so that women can find out if they are or are not at risk, (which is the case for most) for preeclampsia doctors can monitor the pregnancy more closely. If preeclmapsia goes untreated it can develop into a more severe, even fatal condition where the woman becomes fully eclamptic. “A high caliber predictive test would allow women who are identified at high-risk for preeclampsia to seek obstetric care by specialists and to be monitored more vigilantly,” said Eleni Tsigas, executive director of the Preeclampsia Foundation.
photo: Daquella Manera/Flickr