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Blood Test Breakthrough For Pre-Eclampsia

A world-first blood test that can help predict the potentially deadly pregnancy condition pre-eclampsia is being introduced at Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital.

The hospital helped develop the blood test, which predicts the likelihood of pregnant women developing the condition.

About one in 20 pregnant women experience pre-eclampsia, which leads to dangerously high blood pressure in a pregnant woman and can involve kidneys, liver, brain and other organ systems.

There is no cure for pre-eclampsia other than to deliver the baby, the hospital's director of pregnancy research Professor Shaun Brennecke said in a statement.

"Currently, the only way to cure pre-eclampsia is to end the pregnancy by delivering the baby, even if the pregnancy is still many weeks from full term, in which case such prematurity can have significant implications for the long-term health of the baby," he said.

Prof Brennecke said the test will give doctors the ability to understand the severity of the pre-eclampsia and the best time to deliver the baby.

"This new test is a long-awaited and very important step forward," he said.

Hannah Torres developed pre-eclampsia in the late stages of her pregnancy with son Mateo, and had to spend a week in critical care after his birth.

"I didn't realise until afterwards just how serious it was and what complications it can cause," she said.

"Knowing that for future pregnancies I can have a test to tell me if I'm at risk of developing it again, I think that's wonderful."

The cause of pre-eclampsia is unknown. Women at higher risk include those having their first baby, those with a history of pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy, women under 20 and over 40 and those having twins or multiple babies.

If left untreated, it can cause the mother to develop liver or kidney failure, seizures, stroke and death.

In the baby it can lead to slower growth in the womb, a low birth weight, premature birth and in some cases, death.

AAP

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