Published by BBC NEWS - 25th March 2022

pregnant woman having a blood test

Image source, Getty Images

A simple blood test can help spot pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition in pregnancy, and should be offered to women on the NHS, new draft guidelines for England say.

Early diagnosis of this disorder, which affects up to 6% of pregnancies, can save lives, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says.

The test checks the health of the placenta, which provides nutrients and oxygen to the baby in the womb.

And it can warn early of any problem.

Many hospitals have already started using the placental growth factor (PLGF) test.

Fast reassurance

PLGF is a protein that helps the development of new blood vessels in the placenta.

Abnormally low levels could be an indicator the placenta is not developing properly.

The new guidelines say midwives caring for pregnant women can use it, alongside other checks, to quickly identify pre-eclampsia.

It can give a result the same day, providing fast reassurance and allowing closer monitoring and extra care to swiftly begin for those who need it.

If the test is normal, pre-eclampsia is unlikely to develop over the next week or so.

Jeanette Kusel, from NICE, said: “These tests represent a step change in the management and treatment of pre-eclampsia.

“This is extremely valuable to doctors and expectant mothers as now they can have increased confidence in their treatment plans and preparing for a safe birth.”


  • When it happens, it is usually in the second half of pregnancy or soon after the baby is born
  • Early signs include headaches, high blood pressure and protein in the urine of the mother-to-be
  • Those who have it should be carefully monitored and their baby may need to be delivered early
  • Most cases improve soon after the baby is delivered
  • In a small number, it can develop into a more serious, life-threatening illness

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