Preeclampsia is a severe and sometimes life-threatening condition characterized by high blood pressure during pregnancy. It can have serious complications for both the mother and the baby if left untreated. However, a recent breakthrough in diagnostics has the potential to help pregnant women who are at risk of developing preeclampsia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, including preeclampsia and eclampsia, could be responsible for approximately 14% of maternal deaths globally. This indicates that preeclampsia contributes to a significant proportion of maternal mortality worldwide, but that is about to change.
According to a report in The New York Times, a groundbreaking blood test has been developed by Thermo Fisher Scientific that can accurately identify with 96 percent accuracy which women with sometimes-vague symptoms will develop preeclampsia within the following two weeks. This test is considered a significant advancement in preeclampsia diagnostics, with experts hailing it as the first major step forward since the condition was first defined in 1900.
The blood test is designed for women who are in the 23rd to 35th weeks of pregnancy. Women who receive a negative result can be safely discharged from the hospital, while those who test positive will have a two-thirds likelihood of progressing to severe preeclampsia. In such cases, early delivery of the baby may be necessary, as currently there are no known therapies that can reverse or cure preeclampsia other than delivery.
The test works by measuring the ratio of two proteins produced by the placenta. Researchers found that these proteins were significantly imbalanced in women who later developed severe preeclampsia. The study involved tracking over 1,000 pregnant women who were hospitalized at 18 medical centers between 2019 and 2021 due to high blood pressure.
While the blood test is already available in Europe, its potential impact in identifying preeclampsia early and guiding appropriate medical interventions has garnered significant attention. By accurately identifying women at risk, healthcare providers can take proactive measures to monitor and manage the condition, ultimately improving outcomes for both mothers and babies affected by preeclampsia.