Africa Studio/Shutterstock You and your partner have decided you want to have a baby. You’ve read up on how to get pregnant, done everything right, et voila! The day you miss your period, you pee on a stick and get the news that makes you glow. Once you confirm it with your OB/GYN, you and your partner begin planning and envisioning this new person and your new family. Then, six weeks later, seemingly out of nowhere, it’s all over: You’ve had a miscarriage, and the rocky road to emotional recovery begins.
Now, imagine the same scenario, except that the day you peed on the stick, you also took a test that revealed that your pregnancy was likely to end in miscarriage. Sure, you’d be disappointed, but you’d also be prepared, and since the test told you that miscarriage was inevitable, you wouldn’t have to agonize over what you might have done wrong (which is more than likely nothing, considering most miscarriages are not preventable).
Think it sounds like science fiction? Well, think again because a brand new test to predict the risk of miscarriage as early as four weeks into a pregnancy (the time of a missed period) is on its way thanks to a recent study by scientists from the University of Heidelberg and published in the Journal of Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.
While there has never been a specific biomarker for miscarriage, these scientists knew about a protein associated with injury and inflammation that they had reason to believe may play a role in pregnancy viability (particularly in implantation and development of the early embryo) and wondered if changes in PER blood levels could predict whether a woman will miscarry during the first trimester. To evaluate, the scientists obtained informed consent from 41 women between the ages of 18 and 42 who had conceived using IVF and/or other fertility treatments to evaluate their blood both at the time of pregnancy testing and the first ultrasound checkup (at six weeks).
As it turned out, of the 41 women, 18 miscarried (leaving 23 with viable pregnancies). Crunching those numbers with two measures of PER in each woman’s blood, the researchers found that women who miscarried had increasing levels of PER in their blood, while women whose pregnancies continued showed decreasing levels of PER in their blood. The differences were significant enough that the researchers could conclude that measuring PER levels may be a promising means for predicting pregnancy outcome.
“The development of an early-screening test to identify patients who are at risk of miscarriage in the actual pregnancy would be useful for several reasons,” the scientists concluded. “A miscarriage means an enormous distress for the patient and a predictive test with a negative result could be used to reassure anxious patients. On the other hand, a predictive test with a positive result can warn the patients in a very early stage of pregnancy.” In addition, for women who use fertility treatments to get pregnant, an early warning of miscarriage can prevent “unnecessary prolongation” of supplementing the pregnancy with high doses of hormones, as is often done in women using assisted reproductive technologies.
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