A new study suggests that a simple blood test taken by mothers during early pregnancy could indicate their risk of miscarriage. If shown to be true, this would be a major step in identifying women who may be in danger of both miscarriages and premature births before symptoms ever show. But many experts are stressing caution about the results, as the study was small and holds “a high risk of them being wrong.”
The latest research comes from a team working at the Laboratory for Reproductive Medicine and Immunology in San Francisco. The researchers found that a certain molecule in the blood may reveal which women have a higher chance of going on to have a miscarriage, which in turn could help doctors establish new ways to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
The results were presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting, but other experts have been quick to state their doubts about the study. While the results are interesting and warrant further research, they caution that the study was small and only at a preliminary stage.
The team studied 160 births in total, with the researchers looking at the blood of pregnant mothers for a molecule known as microRNA. The doctors believe that these molecules show signs that expectant mothers are more likely to develop complications. They say that their analysis of the microRNA allowed them to predict with 90 percent accuracy which women would have a miscarriage and pre-eclampsia. They also were able to determine with 89 percent accuracy who would have a premature birth before 34 weeks.
Miscarriage, particularly if it is a woman’s first pregnancy, is not an uncommon occurrence. In fact, it is thought that between 15 and 20 percent of all pregnancies in the US will end up in the loss of the fetus before the 20th week. On the other hand, pre-eclampsia is more likely to affect women in the second half of their pregnancy, in which high blood pressure and vision problems can develop.
Others, however, are not as convinced by the results. While they say the results are intriguing, they also stress that far more research needs to be done to fully investigate the extent of these claims.
“Although the results might seem exciting and cutting edge, there is unfortunately a high risk of them being wrong,” professor of clinical embryology at the University of Manchester, Daniel Brison, told BBC News. “We'd need larger follow-up studies to be sure whether these results are valid.”