Pre-eclampsia is the most common complication related to pregnancy. The condition affects more than 10,000 pregnant women in Canada each year, and, if left untreated, can be fatal for both mother and baby.
New research at Mount Sinai Hospital leading to earlier diagnoses and improved treatments for pre-eclampsia
Signs and symptoms
As well, a serious complication called placental abruption may occur, which is the separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus before delivery (resulting in heavy bleeding and placental damage).
However, it is known that in a woman with pre-eclampsia, tiny blood vessels surrounding the baby’s placenta (called placental villi) release natural inhibitory factors important for its growth but which interfere with the mother’s own blood vessels and increase her blood supply. This triggers some of the cascade of events characterizing pre-eclampsia.
Antihypertensives are used to lower blood pressure
until delivery. For severe cases, corticosteroids can
improve liver and platelet functioning and prolong pregnancy, and
anticonvulsive medications can reduce the risk of
seizure. Bed rest is also recommended to increase blood flow to the
placenta and lower blood pressure. If pre-eclampsia arises towards the
end of the pregnancy, an early delivery may be the best option.
Meet the Experts:
Dr. John Kingdom, Maternal Fetal-Medicine Specialist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and a scientist at the hospital’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, recently discovered a new mechanism for the blood thinning drug, Heparin, in the prevention of pre-eclampsia. Heparin is used as a drug for pre-eclampsia due to its ability to restart a limited degree of new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in some pre-eclamptic pregnancies, thus reducing the risk of high blood pressure.
Lunenfeld scientist Dr. Isabella Caniggia is a leading authority on placental development and pre-eclampsia. Dr. Caniggia hopes that in the future, a simple blood test will predict whether a pregnant woman is at risk for pre-eclampsia. A few years ago, she licensed her biomarker findings to help develop a diagnostic tool that will detect and manage pre-eclampsia in expectant mothers over the next five years. Potentially, physicians will use a point-of-care kit to detect and measure increased levels of the biomarker endoglin in expectant mothers who are at increased risk of pre-eclampsia.