Simple test can predict pregnancy disorder

Aiming to prevent future mothers from pregnancy disorder, Edith Cowan University researchers have developed, what they consider to be, a simple, low-cost warning test.

Known as Preeclampsia, the disease is responsible for the death of 76,000 mothers and 500,000 babies each year, primarily in the developing world. Women and babies can be affected – brain and liver injury in mothers and premature birth.

The key to avoiding any risks lie on an early warning. Through a survey developed in the university, researches assessed the health status of 593 pregnant Ghanaian women. They were able to analyse levels of fatigue, heart health, digestion, immunity and mental health.

When these results were combined with blood tests that measured women’s calcium and magnesium levels, the researchers were able to accurately predict the development of preeclampsia in almost 80% of cases.

Enoch Anto, a PhD candidate at Edith Cowan University, said preeclampsia was very treatable once identified, so providing an early warning could save thousands of lives. “In developing nations, preeclampsia is a leading cause of death for both mothers and babies. In Ghana, it’s responsible for 18% of maternal deaths. But it can be treated using medication that lowers blood pressure once diagnosed.

Mr Anto found that 61% of women who scored high on the questionnaire went on to develop preeclampsia, compared with just 17 % of women who scored low. “Both blood tests for magnesium and calcium and the Suboptimal Health Questionnaire are inexpensive, making this ideally suited to the developing world where preeclampsia causes the most suffering.”

The Suboptimal Health Questionnaire was developed in 2009 by Professor Wei Wang from ECU’s School of Health and Medical Sciences.