Tommy's news, 09/05/2018
The Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne are introducing a blood test they helped to develop which could predict a pregnant woman's likelihood of developing pre-eclampsia.
Pre-eclampsia affects up to 6% of pregnancies in UK. The condition only occurs in pregnancy - typically after 20 weeks - and early signs include high blood pressure and the presence of protein in urine. Other symptoms can include swelling of the feet, ankles, face and hands, severe headaches, vision problems and pain just below the ribs.
There is currently no cure for pre-eclampsia, save for delivering the baby. For this reason, it is one of the main causes of preterm birth. Hypertensive disorders, including pre-eclampsia, account for around 8-10% of all preterm births.
During the trial, doctors tested women who had symptoms consistent with pre-eclampsia, such as high blood pressure, and were able to differentiate between women who were at high risk of developing the condition and those who were not.
'This new test is a long-awaited and very important step forward.' Professor Shaun Brennecke, Director of Pregnancy Research at the Royal Women’s hospital
It is hoped that the pre-eclampsia ratio test (PERT) will give doctors more information about the likelihood of a woman developing pre-eclampsia and its severity, allowing them to determine the best time to deliver the baby safely.
The exact cause of pre-eclampsia is not known and more research needs to be done into the condition. However, it’s thought that there is a link between pre-eclampsia and problems with the placenta.
If left untreated, pre-eclampsia can lead to serious complications for mother and baby.
'I didn’t realise until afterwards just how serious it was and what complications it can cause. Knowing that for future pregnancies I can have a test to tell me if I’m at risk of developing it again, I think that’s wonderful.'Hannah Torres, diagnosed with pre-eclampsia
Tommy's pre-eclampsia research
Tommy’s funds pioneering research into the causes of pre-eclampsia, and the best ways of finding and caring for women at risk. We want to know why it happens, so we can work to prevent it.
Discover our current pre-eclampsia research
A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.