Could A New Blood Test Improve Prediction Risk Rate for Pre-Term Birth

Medical researchers are currently trying to develop a new blood test that could predict risk for spontaneous pre-term delivery. 

In this new study, the Brigham & Women’s University research team looked at five micro-particle proteins commonly found in the first-trimester of pregnancy.  The study involved taken blood samples from the pregnant women, at the end of the first trimester of their pregnancy.  The research team compared such blood samples from 87 women, all of whom delivered before 35 weeks, against blood samples taken 174 women who delivered at full term. These women were also all around the same age and the same week of their pregnancy at the time they gave their blood samples for the test. 

In the test, then, the researchers analyzed multiple circulating micro-particles that are associated with proteins found during pregnancy.  Analyzing the presence and volume of these proteins, they looked specifically for the subset of proteins associated with higher pre-term risks.  Furthermore, they compared these levels between first-time mothers and those who had given birth at least one time previously.

Study co-author Thomas McElrath, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, comments, “Our goal is to develop prognostic markers for patients to help make predictions and offer highly personalized care to women from early stages of pregnancy.”

And the researchers explain that this study is important because data shows nearly 10 percent of births are now taking place before week 37 of gestation, compared against the normal (healthy) 40 weeks of gestation.  Data describes that pre-term birth can result in a handful of different health conditions which can include pre-term labor (of course), as well as the premature rupture of the placental membrane—also known as preeclampsia.  

Furthermore, mothers who have a history of pre-term deliveries are known to face higher risks.  But while we can be certain of this elevated risk, predicting the likelihood of pre-term birth is not easy to do, especially in the case of a first pregnancy.  

The results of this study have been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.