According to Australian researchers, a quicker and more precise test for preeclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy condition, has been developed. The test was created through research at The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and identified certain biomarkers in the blood plasma of women with preeclampsia. 9NEWS reports that preeclampsia affects 4-8% of pregnancies and can cause severe complications or maternal or fetal death if left untreated.
In this article, we’ll explore what this fatal condition is, how it takes place, and provide an overview of the traditional diagnosis versus the rapid test breakthrough.
Understanding the Placental Connection
Preeclampsia’s exact cause is not fully known, but it is thought to have something to do with problems with blood vessels in the placenta. Typically, the blood vessels in the placenta widen to allow for increased blood flow to the fetus. However, in women with preeclampsia, these blood vessels may not widen properly, resulting in decreased blood flow and oxygen to the fetus. This can harm the placenta and build up toxins in the mother’s bloodstream causing high blood pressure and sometimes liver and kidney damage.
Early detection and proper management of preeclampsia are crucial for the health and safety of both mother and baby. About 10-15% of maternal deaths in Australia are caused by preeclampsia, making it one of the country’s top causes of maternal death.
Factors that Increase the Risk of Preeclampsia
Several known risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing this serious pregnancy complication, which includes:
Pregnancy involves significant changes to the body, and the first pregnancy can be particularly challenging. The body may not be fully prepared for the demands of pregnancy, which can increase the risk of developing preeclampsia.
Both younger and older women may be at a higher risk of developing preeclampsia due to differences in their bodies ability to adapt to the demands of pregnancy. Younger women may have underdeveloped blood vessels, while older women may have reduced blood flow to the placenta.
Excess weight can strain the body during pregnancy, increasing the risk of developing preeclampsia. Obese women may also have an increased risk of developing other pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes.
Preeclampsia is thought to have a genetic component, and women with a family history may be more likely to develop it themselves. This risk is exceptionally high if a woman’s mother or sister has had preeclampsia.
Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of developing preeclampsia. Chronic hypertension, for example, can damage blood vessels and make them less able to adapt to the demands of pregnancy. Diabetes can also damage blood vessels and increase the risk of complications.
Carrying multiples puts additional strain on the body during pregnancy, increasing the risk of developing preeclampsia. Women carrying twins or triplets may also have a higher risk of other pregnancy complications, such as preterm labour.
Potential Emergency Complications
Pregnant women must be aware of the potential emergency complications of preeclampsia and seek medical attention as soon as they notice any symptoms.
This severe form of preeclampsia can cause liver damage and low platelet count. It can be fatal for both the mother and the baby, necessitating an emergency delivery.
Preeclampsia can cause the placenta to detach from the uterus, leading to heavy bleeding and dangering the baby’s life. To save both the mother and the baby, an emergency delivery may be required.
Preeclampsia can cause the baby to be born prematurely, increasing the risk of a range of health problems, including respiratory distress syndrome and developmental delays.
This is a rare but severe complication of preeclampsia that involves seizures. It can be fatal for both the mother and the infant and necessitates quick medical intervention.
Preeclampsia can increase the risk of stroke in the mother, which can be life-threatening.
Current Method Versus New
The new rapid test developed by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) researchers could revolutionise how the condition is diagnosed and managed. Current methods for diagnosing preeclampsia involve:
- monitoring symptoms
- measuring blood pressure
- testing for protein in the urine
On the other hand, the breakthrough test detects specific biomarkers in the blood plasma of women with preeclampsia and can offer results in as little as 15 minutes.
In collaboration with Mercy Hospital for Women in Melbourne, the study showed that the new rapid test was highly sensitive (90.5%) and specific compared to 73.7% of the current assessment means. This significant advance over current diagnostic methods is expected to reduce diagnosis time and increase the accuracy of the results.
Symptoms and Prevention of Preeclampsia
To avoid preeclampsia, pregnant women should maintain healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet. They should also attend all scheduled prenatal appointments to monitor their blood pressure and urine protein levels. Pregnant women need to be aware of the symptoms of preeclampsia, such as:
- high blood pressure
- sudden weight gain
- changes in vision
- upper abdominal pain
If these symptoms are experienced, contact a healthcare provider immediately or triple zero (000).
Early detection of preeclampsia can lead to timely intervention, which can greatly reduce the risk of complications for both the mother and the baby. Knowing the risk factors, symptoms, and the new rapid test can help pregnant women take proactive steps to protect themselves and their babies. It is pertinent to know basic first aid in any emergency, including those related to preeclampsia. CPR First Aid RTO NO. 21903 offers short courses that can equip individuals with the skills and principles needed to respond to emergencies, including those related to pregnancy and childbirth.