A hospital in Australia is the first to pioneer a simple test for preeclampsia, a sometimes fatal condition that affects pregnant women.
Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne is using a blood test to measure two proteins that are released via the placenta and are markers for preeclampsia.
Professor Shaun Brennecke explained, "If a test is positive we can increase our vigilance and surveillance and we can also be in a position, being forewarned and therefore forearmed, to start medications that can improve the outcome for both mother and baby".
It is estimated that nearly 800 women die every day around the world from illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Approximately 10 million women develop preeclampsia, and 76,000 die from it annually. The disorder sometimes goes unnoticed until the final stages, in which convulsions and other complications can cause significant peril to both mother and child.
If preeclampsia can be detected through a simple blood test, this has the potential to save the lives of many pregnant women around the world.
"In the past we've had to wait until preeclampsia was clinically obvious by which time mothers were often quite sick," Professor Brennecke said.
But, will this test have any effect on the people that need it the most? Those who are most likely to have undetected preeclampsia are those in poverty, who have little access to information, live remotely, and are unaware of the symptoms due to cultural practices.
Professor Brennecke has described the blood test as a “long awaited and very important step forward,” so perhaps making it simple and routine around the world could lead to it reaching the masses. It can certainly help people who have access to it.
Preeclampsia is hard to recognize in certain situations because a mother may have no symptoms leading up to its onset. In other cases, she may experience: high blood pressures, swelling, nausea, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, sudden weight gain, vision changes, and/or headaches.
Health care providers suggest that there are ways to protect pregnant women against preeclampsia including, “good prenatal diet full of vitamins, minerals and the basic food groups are important for any pregnancy, as is reducing consumption of processed foods, refined sugars and caffeine. Eliminating alcohol and any medication not prescribed by a physician is essential”.
Here's hoping that this test can soon be used to help save the lives of women all across the world.