Blood test may help predict pregnancy due date, premature birth

Leslie Hanson
June 9, 2018

Blood Test to Predict Due Dates and Preterm Birth Scientists have developed a blood test they say can be used to predict a pregnant woman's due date and potentially identify women at risk for giving birth prematurely. The test can also be used to predict if the pregnancy will end in a premature birth.

"We found that a handful of genes are very highly predictive of which women are at risk for preterm delivery", says the study's senior author Mads Melbye, president and CEO of the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen. Added bonus: It's a "noninvasive" method that's cheaper than an ultrasound. That's similar to the accuracy rate of ultrasounds during the first trimester, the researchers said. So far, the ultrasound is still the main method of predicting gestational age, but it can be rather expensive and it still can't predict spontaneous preterm births, which is the leading cause of infant death in the United States.

Now, using powerful genetic techniques, Stanford scientists are closing in on that dream with a preliminary tool that requires only a pregnant woman's blood sample.

Under the headline, "Toward more predictable birthdays", the team of researchers described a pilot study of 31 healthy pregnant women. By applying their model, the researchers correctly guessed whether the women would deliver preterm more than 75 percent of the time, according to the paper published in the journal Science. The estimates of gestational age given by the model were accurate about 45 percent of the time, which is comparable to 48 percent accuracy for first-trimester ultrasound estimates. Premature birth is also the largest cause of infant mortality in the U.S. Being able to predict preterm births can give parents the medical guidance they need as early as possible and help improve the baby's health.

"By measuring cell-free RNA in the circulation of the mother, we can observe changing patterns of gene activity that happen normally during pregnancy, and identify disruptions in the patterns that may signal to doctors that unhealthy circumstances like preterm labour and birth are likely to occur", he said. The same non-invasive test can be used in general to predict the date of delivery with the same reliability as ultrasound.

Using combinations of particular transcripts, they were able to pick out six of eight pregnancies that ended early and misclassified one out of 26 that went full-term, among a subset of women who were known to be at high risk for prematurity.

"It's mostly maternal genes", Moufarrej said, noting that the genes that predict prematurity are different than those that give information about gestational age. They also hope to identify targets for drugs that could delay premature birth. According to the news outlet, delegates from nation's largest physicians group are expected to vote on a resolution to encourage birth control manufacturers to submit applications to the FDA to switch the status of their pills from prescription to over the counter.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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