July 21, 2016 12:21 pm
Updated: July 21, 2016 1:32 pm

New blood test identifies women at risk of preterm delivery

WATCH: A new blood test can identify if pregnant women may be at risk of delivering their babies prematurely.


Researchers have developed a new blood test to identify if pregnant women may be at risk of delivering their babies prematurely.

The technique was developed by Suzanne Tough from the University of Calgary, Dr. Jan Heng from Harvard Medical School and Stephen Lye from the University of Toronto.

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“Identifying those women who are at risk of premature birth early in their pregnancies will help clinicians personalize approaches to prevent preterm birth,” Tough said in a news release. “Developing a reliable screening tool like a blood test could allow us to intervene early in a woman’s pregnancy.”

READ MORE: Calgary invention gives premature babies better start to life

The team looked at women who participated in a pregnancy study in Calgary. They collected blood from the women at two points during their pregnancy: 17 weeks, when fetal ultrasound is conducted – and approximately 27 weeks, when gestational diabetes screening is performed.

Researchers looked at gene expression, profiling, and bioinformatics, that when coupled with a patient’s clinical history, including previous preterm births, abortions or anaemia, they discovered they could predict whether or not a woman would deliver prematurely.

“There are tests to determine if a woman will deliver prematurely, but these tests are much too late in a woman’s pregnancy to do anything about it,” explained Donna Slater from the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. “The blood test we’ve developed detects risk much earlier in a woman’s pregnancy. It will one day prove most beneficial to women who are at the highest risk to deliver preterm.”

“By knowing risk, in advance, unnecessary and expensive tests can be avoided by those women who are most likely to go the full 40 weeks in their pregnancy.”

Alberta has one of the highest preterm birth rates in Canada, according to Alberta Innovates.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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