A simple blood test can predict which women are at risk of pre-eclampsia, a complication of pregnancy, in time to prevent it before symptoms appear. This study showed that a risk factor that can be detected many weeks before symptoms appear may be able to predict who will develop pre-eclampsia. Women who developed pre-eclampsia had higher-than-normal levels of a protein called SHBG early in pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia is seen in about 5% of pregnant women and is marked by high blood pressure, fluid retention and protein in the urine. If not taken care of, it can lead to eclampsia- with potentially fatal seizures, liver or kidney failure. Both mother and baby are at risk.
Wolf, and his colleagues looked at data from a study of more than 5,000 women who had various tests during pregnancy. They found 56 who had pre-eclampsia, and compared their tests to 90 women who did not. The pre-eclampsia patients had unusually low levels of a protein called SHBG or sex hormone binding globulin in early pregnancy.
The protein is associated with insulin resistance, a condition that can sometime lead to diabetes. Both overweight and lean women who had the low levels of SHBG went on to develop pre-eclampsia. "It also may provide the only clue that a lean woman is at elevated risk. There might be a window of opportunity in the first trimester when preventive treatment could be successful, but until now we did not have a simple way to identify high-risk women," wolf said.