By: 13 January 2014

A new test that checks the level of a placental protein could help doctors determine if a woman will develop preeclampsia during pregnancy, according to a study in the journal Circulation.

Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that can cause damage the mother and can result in a reduced birthweight or stillbirth.

“The test is designed to differentiate women with preeclampsia from those with high blood pressure alone,” said Lucy Chappell, PhD, 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.

“The test identifies women at high risk for developing preeclampsia, so doctors can better monitor and treat the blood pressure. It also prevents unnecessary hospitalisations of those who are not likely to develop preeclampsia.”

The study included 625 patients from various centres in the United Kingdom, of which 61 percent developed preeclampsia.

Women in the study with low levels of the protein placental growth factor (PlGF) developed preeclampsia. If protein levels were less than 100pg/mL at less than 35 weeks of pregnancy, the baby was likely delivered within 14 days, researchers said. In a normal pregnancy, the level of placental growth factor is 100-3000pg/mL and doesn’t decrease.