shutterstock_49824292Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure, which can lead to a high-risk pregnancy. Now there is a way to learn your risk of developing preeclampsia in the first trimester of your pregnancy.

Overview

Preeclampsia affects 20,000 pregnancies annually (0.5%). It usually begins after 20 weeks in a woman whose blood pressure had been normal prior to pregnancy. Even a slight rise in blood pressure may be a sign of preeclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia screening is done in the first trimester when your baby is at least 11 weeks old and less than 14 weeks old. It involves a simple blood test, and measurement of your blood pressure. An ultrasound  examination may be included.

What are the risks?

Untreated preeclampsia can lead to serious complications for both you and your baby. For a pregnant mother with preeclampsia, the only cure is the delivery of your baby.

For this reason, if preeclampsia is diagnosed before it’s possible to safely deliver your baby, you face a challenging risk. Your baby still needs more time to mature, but you don’t want to put yourself or your baby at risk of serious complications.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of pre-eclampsia is not known, but problems in the placenta are thought to be involved. If the placenta can’t get as much blood as it needs, it can affect you and your baby in different ways, including pre-eclampsia.

Am I at risk?

You are more at risk if:

  • This is your first pregnancy
  • Your mother or sister had pre-eclampsia
  • You have a Body Mass Index of 35 or more
  • You are over 40 years in age
  • You are expecting multiples
  • You have medical problems such as high blood pressure, kidney problems or diabetes
  • Your pregnancy was medically assisted such as IVF

What is the traditional method of screening?

The traditional method is to look at the maternal history for factors such as age, racial origin, method of conception, smoking, chronic diseases such as chronic hypertension, previous or family history of pre-eclampsia. This approach offers a 30% detection rate with an additional 5% false positives.

Is there a more effective method of screening?

By combining the traditional use of maternal history with additional serum and ultrasound markers, studies show that detection rates of 93% can be attained (with 5% false positive).

How is the test performed?

Pre-eclampsia screening is done in the first trimester when your baby is at least 11 weeks old and less than 14 weeks old. It involves a simple blood test, and measurement of your blood pressure. An ultrasound examination may be included.

If I am identified at risk, what is the treatment?

Preventive care of pre-eclampsia aims to prevent or delay its development. Simple treatments such as low-dose aspirin are often prescribed at an early stage of pregnancy, hence the importance of early screening. Talk to you doctor to learn more.