Warning signs of preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy that often forces a premature delivery, are revealed through blood tests (SN: 5/10/03, p. 293: Available to subscribers at Preeclampsia Progress: Blood test for predicting pregnancy problems; 2/14/04, p. 100: Available to subscribers at Pregnancy Alert: Proteins may predict preeclampsia). Scientists now report that testing a woman’s urine for falling concentrations of a hormone called placental growth factor (PlGF) can also tip off doctors to preeclampsia. These findings, if confirmed, suggest that pregnant women might someday have access to home kits that would alert them to get further tests, says Richard J. Levine of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md.
He and his colleagues examined urine obtained from 238 women at various times during pregnancy. Half had gone on to develop preeclampsia, which is marked by high blood pressure and in some cases, seizures. The other women had continued their uncomplicated pregnancies. Women who developed preeclampsia, which appears in the third trimester, had less PlGF in their urine in the seventh month, the team reports in the Jan. 5 Journal of the American Medical Association.
Levine says that if a woman were to show low readings of urinary PlGF and other signs of preeclampsia, doctors would tightly monitor her blood pressure and, in some cases, prescribe medication and admit her to a hospital.
PlGF and another hormone orchestrate blood vessel growth in the placenta, enabling the mother to nourish her fetus, Levine says.