A new test can quickly identify preeclampsia, a common and dangerous condition during pregnancy and help keep mothers and babies healthy and safe.
When Jessi Prizinsky was pregnant with her first child, her feet started swelling.
“Well, you hear everybody tell you, you know, the swollen ankles, and get your feet up and all that,” Prizinsky said. “That was where I thought, ‘OK.’ And then it started to be, it kind of looks like it’s in my arms and hands, too.”
Most women expect some swelling when they are pregnant. But these symptoms can also be signs of preeclampsia.
It’s a complication of pregnancy that raises the mother’s blood pressure and affects the blood flow to the placenta. This can lead to smaller or premature babies. Untreated, it can be fatal to mom, or baby, or both.
Fast, easy test developed
Researchers at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center have developed a fast, easy test to diagnose preeclampsia. That’s where Dr. Kara Rood practices maternal and fetal medicine.
“One of the hard parts with preeclampsia is there’s a lot of symptoms of just pregnancy alone, and other medical conditions that have similar symptoms that the women experience, like high blood pressure, headaches, changes in vision. Those can be attributed to a lot of other things,” Rood said.
Preeclampsia is more serious if it occurs earlier in the pregnancy, or in a woman who had high blood pressure before getting pregnant.
Rood says managing this condition early is best for both mothers and babies.
The test uses a special red dye that reacts almost instantly to unique proteins in the urine of pregnant women with preeclampsia. “Without the certainty of this test, providers tend to be overcautious because this is definitely a condition that we can’t allow to go untreated,” said Rood. “This test helps us to quickly provide care to women with preeclampsia, while avoiding unnecessary admissions or even early deliveries.”
“Without the certainty of this test aiding in the diagnosis,” she said, “we as providers are definitely overcautious, as this is definitely something we don’t want to miss because of the life-threatening results of a misdiagnosis for moms and babies.”
Listen to your body
Because of her preeclampsia, Prizinsky was induced three weeks early. She had a successful second pregnancy and has this advice for other women.
“The biggest thing is listening to your body,” she said.
The test is so easy, women can take it at home, and preeclampsia can be treated as soon as it develops. The researchers expect the test to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the next few years.