Could Your Preeclampsia Risk Be Predicted When You're 6 Weeks Pregnant?

A new test for a scary pregnancy complication usually diagnosed in the third trimester may help women identify their risk as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Up until now, preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy, has been diagnosed late in the third trimester of a woman's gestation. But a new study out of the University of Iowa found the protein copeptin can actually detect this scary condition as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.

Detection would work like a pregnancy test, researchers say.

"Clinically, this timeframe is the earliest a woman can find out if she is pregnant by an over-the-counter pregnancy test. A similar, simple test could be developed to predict preeclampsia via copeptin," explains lead investigator Mark Santillan, M.D.

This potentially deadly complication affects between 7 and 10 percent of pregnant women, and early delivery of the baby is the only cure. Undiagnosed, it can adversely impact baby's growth, and even lead to stroke, multi-organ failure, or even death of the mom and her child.

The hope is that early diagnosis will lead to better treatments and even prevention.

To reach their conclusions, researchers looked at how copeptin, a byproduct of the protein arginine vasopressin (AVP), impacted pregnant mice. The mice that were given AVP exhibited cardiovascular, kidney, obstetrics, and immune components like human preeclampsia. If AVP initiates extremely high blood pressure during pregnancy, then Dr. Santillan says targeting its pathway would hopefully treat, prevent, and possibly cure the condition in humans.

Learn your risks for developing preeclampsia, and learn what the signs are that you may be suffering from this frightening pregnancy condition, including sudden weight gain, swelling, high blood pressure, blurry vision, and headaches.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.


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