A Guide for Expectant Mothers
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that can arise during pregnancy, generally occurring after 20 weeks gestation and up to 6 weeks postpartum. It's a significant concern in the medical world, affecting 1 in 20 pregnancies, and often leads to a more medicalized birth.
As a condition exclusive to pregnancy, pre-eclampsia can manifest in various ways:
Elevated blood pressure and protein leakage in the urine
Fetal growth restriction and compromised placenta function
Reduced amniotic fluid
Potential damage to maternal organs like the liver, kidneys, lungs, and nervous system, which can range from mild to severe.
So why should you consider pre-eclampsia risk screening?
Knowing early whether a woman is high-risk or low-risk for pre-eclampsia can provide different monitoring and prevention, changing the immediate and long term health of both mothers and babies.
A reliable screening test can identify those at higher risk of developing the condition before 36-37 weeks, enabling earlier intervention.
Science strongly suggests that initiating low-dose aspirin before the 16th week can reduce the risk of developing pre-eclampsia in a high-risk population by 50-70%. This preventive measure can significantly improve maternal and child health, minimizing growth restriction, pre-term deliveries, and maternal organ damage.
The Screening Process and Results
For maximum effectiveness, the screening is best performed between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy at the time of routine early ultrasound. It entails an ultrasound measurement of the blood flow inside the uterine arteries, blood pressure measurements over 5 min, and an evaluation of your health history and lab values. These data are entered for calculation of individual risk in a special software from the internationally recognized Fetal Medicine Foundation (UK).
The screening results provide an estimated risk score for developing pre-eclampsia in pregnancy up to 36 weeks. A low-risk result doesn't entirely rule out pre-eclampsia, but it means it's unlikely to occur in your current pregnancy before 36 wk. Consequently, your prenatal care will proceed routinely.
On the other hand, a high-risk result indicates a chance of developing pre-eclampsia in the pregnancy that is greater than 1 in 100. If this is the case, your healthcare provider will counsel you about the recommended course of action throughout your pregnancy. They may prescribe a low dose of aspirin, ideally starting before the 16th week and continuing until around the 36th week. Consistent use of this safe, affordable medication can significantly reduce the risk of early pre-eclampsia in high-risk individuals by 50-70%.
At Milestones, we are committed to supporting your pregnancy and long term health journey and we are excited to increase access to this specialty screening, which is recommended by all international OBGYN organizations, including the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.