A new blood test may predict the condition.
About 8 percent of pregnant women will develop pre-eclampsia, which puts them at risk for kidney damage, seizures, premie births and, at extremes, death. Current tests can only diagnose the condition after it has happened.
Now, a report in the journal Circulation reveals a blood test that can predict the illness 97 percent of the time. The study author spoke to us from London.
"For the first time, we have a test that can help us care for the mother before birth with the intention of improving how the mother does in pregnancy, and how the baby does at delivery," Dr. Lucy Chappell of King's College said.
The second half of pregnancy is when pre-eclampsia starts with symptoms of blurred vision, protein in the urine and high blood pressure.
If a woman has high blood pressure, right now it's hard to tell if the problem is just high blood pressure or a sign of pre-eclampsia. The blood test can predict those who have pre-eclampsia, so that they get more intensive monitoring and care.
A negative test can be a big relief.
"If you have a negative test, it means you have a 97 percent chance of not havie preeclampsia requiring delivery in the next two weeks," Chappell said.
Delivery in two weeks is the only cure for pre-eclampsia. There are no other treatments that can prolong pregnancy without injuring the mother. The take home lesson is that if a woman has symptoms, she should quickly see her doctor.
"This test can tell use which women we should be concerned about, and which can safely go back to their health care providers," Chappell added.
Dr. Chappell says that research is going on to find pre-clampsia treatments that do not require a delivery of the baby within two weeks. The test predicting the illness is being used in England now and is in the approval process in the U.S.