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25th Jul 2023

New preeclampsia tests detect leading cause of maternal death

As the FDA approves a drug to detect the dangerous pregnancy-related illness, maternal mortality sees a small win

The Food and Drug Administration in the United States have, for the first time, approved a test to detect preeclampsia, a leading cause of maternal death, according to recent piece by The Guardian.

Preeclampsia is a potentially life-threatening form of high blood pressure that can develop during pregnancy or after childbirth that affects mothers. There is no cure or treatment for preeclampsia – the only way to help is by delivering the baby.

The illness has been linked to the recent death of Olympian Tori Bowie, who was found dead at her home last month due to complications from childbirth. After that story came out, Dr Mike Aziz, a maternal foetal medicine specialist in America said that “The US maternal health crisis is a national embarrassment.”

The test, developed by Thermo Fisher Scientific, is a blood test that helps predict if a patient will develop severe preeclampsia in the next two weeks. The usual way doctors test for preeclampsia is blood pressure monitoring and testing for a particular protein in the urine of the pregnant person.

Once a person is diagnosed with preeclampsia, they are most often hospitalised and closely monitored for these signs, and can lead to premature delivery of the baby in order to prevent the illness worsening in the mother.

You are most at risk of developing it if you already have diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, a family history of the illness, or if you had it in a prior pregnancy. There is a higher risk, too, if you are over 40 or if it has been 10 years since your last pregnancy.

In a recent UCD study, it was stated that it is “widely accepted” that aspirin “can significantly reduce the early onset of preeclampsia”, which is more promising information for expectant mothers.