premature birth risk

A new test has successfully been developed by scientists from the University of California San Francisco, which can accurately detect a woman’s risk of preeclampsia or premature birth. It is believed detecting the risks early gives doctors the ability to treat the problem before it leads to serious complications later on.

Premature birth is currently known to be the leading cause of death in children younger than five. It’s become an increasing problem, leading scientists to search for a solution. This new test is a revolutionary step to preventing both preeclampsia and premature births.

What is the new test for preeclampsia risk?

The new test has been designed to detect early risks of preeclampsia or premature birth from as little as 10 weeks into the pregnancy. It screens an impressive 25 biomarkers of immune system activation and inflammation. The test also looks at the protein levels which are crucial for the development of the placenta.

It has impressively proven to be 80% accurate at detecting the risk of preterm birth, and almost 90% accurate at detecting preeclampsia.

How was it developed?

This revolutionary test was developed after researchers looked at blood sample results from 400 women during the second trimester of their pregnancy. They then compared the results between the women who went on to give birth full term, between 32 and 36 weeks and women who gave birth earlier than 32 weeks.

Initially, the researchers analysed 60 different growth and immune factors, before narrowing it down to the final 25 factors.

Can it prevent all premature births?

Although the test does have an 80% chance of detecting premature birth risk, it is worth noting that it will not necessarily prevent all cases. The scientists claim it can prevent some premature births and help to identify risk factors.

So, while it may detect risk factors, enabling treatment to be sought early on, there is no guarantee it will eliminate the risk of premature birth completely.

How does it differ to existing tests?

There is currently a test already offered to detect the risk of premature birth. However, it is typically designed to be used later on in the pregnancy. The new test developed can be used as early as 10 weeks into the pregnancy. So, it has the potential to identify the risk long before complications occur.

The existing test also only detects potential risks of spontaneous premature births, while the new test also identifies indicated premature births, as well as preeclampsia. Then there’s the cost difference. The existing test is known to be expensive, a cost not all pregnant women can afford. The new test, however, has been designed to be affordable for everyone. This is especially important because, during their research, the scientists discovered women on low incomes were often at a higher risk of premature birth, along with women over the age of 40.

Overall, this new test is an exciting development and could prove successful in preventing premature births and complications from preeclampsia. It isn’t set to be offered by the NHS anytime soon, so you will need to book a private screening if you want to undergo it.

In recent years, there has been an increased number of children diagnosed with autism, causing experts to question whether ultrasound scans could be behind it. However, after carrying out a study, it appears there is no link between ultrasound pregnancy scans and autism.

The results, published within JAMA Paediatrics, showed children who are diagnosed with autism, had fewer ultrasound scans on average. This provides peace of mind to pregnant women who may be concerned about the effects ultrasound scans have on their baby.

Understanding the results of the study

The results of the study carried out by scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center, should prove reassuring to parents. It was carried out to determine whether the rise in the number of ultrasound scans could be a contributing factor in the increased autism diagnosis rate.

After comparing the number and energy of ultrasound scans used on children diagnosed with autism and those who are not autistic, it was revealed those with autism actually had less exposure to ultrasound scans. It is known, however, that ultrasound has the potential to heat up the tissue. This, in turn, can cause damage, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.

There have been studies carried out on animals which have suggested ultrasound can impact the developing brain. In a study carried out on mice, for example, it was discovered ultrasound exposure within the womb caused them to be less social. There have also been studies which have shown children are more likely to be left-handed after exposure to ultrasound. However, in terms of autism, the majority of cases do not appear to be linked to ultrasound scans in pregnancy.

Deeper ultrasound scans could increase the risk

Although largely reassuring, the study did show that deeper ultrasound scans could increase the risk of autism. One of the main reasons deeper ultrasound scans are needed relate to excess abdominal fat. Therefore, weight management could prove to be a successful way to minimise the risks.

Age could also be a contributing factor, as studies show mothers of children diagnosed with autism appear to be over the age of 35. As it stands, researchers aren’t quite sure what these results mean, and further studies will be required to determine the numerous factors associated with autism.

Private scans should not be conducted “just for fun”

Although it has largely been discovered that ultrasound scans do not directly increase the risk of autism, experts still advise against having additional scans carried out for fun. It is known excess levels of ultrasound can negatively impact brain development, so logically, the more scans you have, the greater the risk.

Private scans can prove crucial for those worried about the health of their baby. However, patients considering having more than one additional scan purely for the photo memories they provide, should reconsider.

In conclusion, standard ultrasound scans do not appear to increase the risk of autism. However, additional research is required to determine the true risk factors behind the condition. Patients should also be wary of undergoing too many private scans, especially if they are deeper ultrasound scans.