Pre-eclampsia is a condition that only occurs during pregnancy and can affect the health of the expectant mother and unborn child.
For the mother, symptoms of pre-eclampsia may include high blood pressure, protein in her urine and fluid retention. For the unborn baby, poor blood supply to the placenta may restrict the amount of oxygen and blood that is passed on, which can result in growth problems.
Mild pre-eclampsia can affect up to 10% of first-time pregnancies. More severe pre-eclampsia can affect 1−2% of pregnancies. Each year, hundreds of babies die in the UK following complications from pre-eclampsia, often as a result of premature birth. It also is responsible for the deaths of around six women a year in the UK. The only treatment for pre-eclampsia is the early birth of the baby and being born premature carries its own risks. Whether this can be done safely will depend on how far along the pregnancy is.
How we’re helping
Currently, the tests used to predict pre-eclampsia are not very accurate so Sparks is funding a project at St Mary’s Hospital and The Hope Hospital Manchester that aims to develop a single, more accurate test to diagnose the condition. The earlier the condition is detected, the better the outlook for both mother and baby.