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First trimester preeclampsia screening test: What you need to know. 

Preeclampsia is a type of high blood pressure disorder that occurs during pregnancy or postpartum. It can lead to pregnancy complications and have severe to fatal effects on both you and the baby. While some people may not experience any symptoms, typical symptoms can include: 

  • Persistent headache
  • Vision changes
  • Upper stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling of the face or hands
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Trouble breathing

Preeclampsia can happen to any pregnant person, but some people are at greater risk. Black women in the U.S. have a 60% higher risk of developing preeclampsia compared to white women. Also, there may be a higher risk of developing preeclampsia if you have:

  • Chronic high blood pressure or kidney disease before pregnancy
  • Obesity: If overweight or obese, you are also more likely to have preeclampsia in more than one pregnancy.
  • Age: Pregnant people over 40 are at a higher risk
  • African American ethnicity: Among those who have had preeclampsia, non-white pregnant women are more likely than white women to develop preeclampsia again if pregnant.
  • Previous diagnosis of preeclampsia.
  • Family history of preeclampsia 
  • Carrying multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)

Patients with risk factors are often prescribed low-dose aspirin to lower their risk of developing preeclampsia. However, using risk factors alone misses many women who go on to develop preeclampsia. 

Preeclampsia screening in the first trimester

You and your provider can now understand if you are at risk for preeclampsia.  

Preeclampsia testing during the first trimester is now available. This new screening is done between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy via a simple blood test ordered by your healthcare provider. The test is an option for all pregnant people, including those with a low to average risk for preeclampsia or first-time pregnancies.

How does it work?

The test checks your protein levels and how your placenta is working and growing. It looks at two biophysical markers – mean arterial pressure (MAP) and uterine artery pulsatility index (UtAPI)-in addition to the placental growth factor (PlGF) and pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A). These markers provide important insights into your preeclampsia risk. Low levels of PlGF and PAPP-A can indicate that the placenta isn’t functioning well. High levels of MAP and UtAPI suggest high blood pressure and resistance to blood flow. These are all potential indicators of preeclampsia.

This new test is one of the many screenings and exams you will take during pregnancy. It’s important to have a shared discussion with your provider about the testing process. You are your best advocate, so ask about the tests you believe are right for you. Regular visits and tests from your healthcare provider are crucial. They are key for monitoring your health and finding early signs of preeclampsia. Make sure to follow up with your healthcare provider to continue testing for preeclampsia risk throughout your pregnancy, especially if you’re in a high-risk group. 

For more information about this new preeclampsia screening test and other preeclampsia screening tests, visit https://womenshealth.labcorp.com/patients/pregnancy/preeclampsia.

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