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Predicting a Common Pregnancy Complication

Preeclampsia is a sudden and potentially fatal complication that strikes about 5 percent of pregnant women in America. There's no cure now, but a new study has uncovered some common risk factors you should know abo

Janel Hemrick loves being a mom to little Clara. "She's full of energy ... into everything ... is very active." Clara is Janel's second child. During her first pregnancy, Janel developed preeclampsia.

"I remember that my blood pressure was 200 over 100," she says. At 26 weeks, she gave birth to Myles. He lived just 20 days. "There's always going to be that time that you wonder, 'What if they could have done something else? What if they would have known sooner? Could I have done something different, and would Myles still be here?'"

Preeclampsia is a dangerous complication of pregnancy. Women develop high blood pressure, swelling and protein in the urine. It can turn into eclampsia, which could lead to seizures.

OB/GYN Baha Sibai, M.D., says, "This has been a frustrating condition for 2,000 years now." Dr. Sibai co-authored a study on risk factors for preeclampsia. High levels of a toxic molecule called sFlt-1 were found in the blood. That led to reduced levels of two growth factors, which are vital for a healthy pregnancy.

"They are abnormal way before the patient develops the signs and symptoms," Dr. Sibai, from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Cincinnati, tells Ivanhoe.

A urine dip stick test could potentially be used to check for these risk factors. Dr. Sibai says, "Developing something like this would have great implications because it has to be simple and easy to use."

Now, the only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby early. Preventing it altogether is the new goal.

Dr. Sibai says a number of studies are underway to look for ways to fight preeclampsia -- including using antioxidants like vitamins C and E and calcium.

Categories: Pregnancy,

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