Screening for Preeclampsia

Fetal Medicine Services

Screening for Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and damage to organs, particularly the liver and kidneys. It affects approximately 5-8% of pregnancies and can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, and even death of the mother and/or baby. While the exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, there are screening tests available to identify women at risk and allow for early intervention and management. In this article, we will discuss screening for preeclampsia, including its purpose, methods, and limitations.

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Screening for Preeclampsia Service

Screening for preeclampsia is an important tool for identifying women at increased risk of developing this serious pregnancy complication. While no screening test is perfect, early detection and management can reduce the risk of complications for both the mother and baby. If screening indicates an increased risk of preeclampsia, further monitoring and management may be recommended to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. As with any medical test or procedure, it is important to discuss the potential benefits and limitations with a healthcare provider and make an informed decision based on individual circumstances and preferences.

Screening for Preeclampsia

Purpose of Screening for Preeclampsia

The purpose of screening for preeclampsia is to identify women who are at increased risk of developing the condition and to allow for early intervention and management. Early detection and management can reduce the risk of complications for both the mother and baby. Screening can also help healthcare providers make informed decisions about the timing and mode of delivery.

Methods of Screening for Preeclampsia

There are several methods of screening for preeclampsia, including:

  • Blood pressure measurement: Blood pressure is typically measured at each prenatal visit. Elevated blood pressure can be an early sign of preeclampsia.
  • Urine protein measurement: A dipstick test or 24-hour urine collection can measure the amount of protein in the urine. High levels of protein in the urine can indicate kidney damage, which is a common feature of preeclampsia.
  • Biomarker testing: Biomarkers are substances in the blood that can indicate a higher risk of developing preeclampsia. Two commonly used biomarkers are placental growth factor (PlGF) and soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1).
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound examination can measure blood flow to the uterus and fetus, which can be affected by preeclampsia.

Limitations of Screening for Preeclampsia

  • False positive and false negative results: No screening test is 100% accurate, and some women may receive a positive result but never develop preeclampsia, while others may receive a negative result but still develop the condition.
  • Variability in test results: Different healthcare providers may use different criteria for diagnosing preeclampsia, which can lead to variability in test results and recommendations for further management.
  • Cost and availability: Some screening tests, such as biomarker testing, may be expensive or not widely available, which can limit their use in certain populations.

What Happens if Screening Indicates Increased Risk of Preeclampsia?

If a woman is found to be at increased risk of developing preeclampsia, further monitoring and management may be recommended. Depending on the severity of the risk, this may include:

  • More frequent prenatal visits to monitor blood pressure and urine protein levels
  • Fetal monitoring to ensure the baby is growing and developing properly
  • Early delivery, either by induction of labor or cesarean section, if preeclampsia becomes severe


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