Blood Test Might Predict Pregnancy Due Date and Preterm Birth
The test is far from ready for use, but research is promising. If it works in bigger studies, it could help prevent deaths of babies born prematurely.
Scientists have developed an inexpensive blood test to predict a pregnant woman’s due date and possibly identify women who are at risk of giving birth prematurely.
The research, which is still preliminary and involved small numbers of women, was led by a prominent pioneer in the field of genetic blood testing, Stephen Quake at Stanford University, who said the test could eventually provide a low-cost method of gauging the gestational age of a developing fetus.
The test, which detects changes in RNA circulating in a pregnant woman’s blood, estimated due dates within two weeks in nearly half the cases, making it as accurate as the current, more expensive method, ultrasound, and more accurate than guesses based on a woman’s last menstrual period.
Using a similar analysis of RNA in blood from eight women who delivered prematurely, the researchers were able to correctly classify six of their pregnancies as preterm. If much larger studies achieve comparable results, the test could become a tool to help prevent unnecessary induction of labor or Cesarean deliveries, and could possibly help save babies would have died because they were born too early.