The placental growth factor (PLGF) test measures the health of the placenta, which provides nutrients and oxygen to the baby, which can alert medics to potential problems. Pre-eclampsia currently affects around 6 per cent of pregnancies.
PLGF is the protein that helps develop new blood vessels in the placenta.
Abnormally low levels can indicate that the placenta is not developing sufficiently.
The test, already practised in many hospitals, can be used in conjunction with other checks to identify pre-eclampsia quickly. It can give a same-day result, offering women reassurance or alerting midwives and doctors to the need for close monitoring and extra care for women who need it. If the test is normal, pre-eclampsia is unlikely to develop over the next week or so.
In negligence cases involving pre-eclampsia, generally very clear signs are missed, with devastating results. In one such case, baby L was delivered at 33 weeks by emergency caesarean section due to pre-eclampsia. He had suffered brain injury (periventricular leucomalacia, PVL) due to hypoxia from placental insufficiency that caused intrauterine growth restriction and pre-eclampsia. Baby L has gone on to develop learning difficulties.
Baby L's mother was at risk of developing pre-eclampsia due to residual renal disease from recurrent childhood urinary infections. While in this case there should have been increased monitoring and intervention because of the renal history, using the PLGF test would likely have identified the pre-eclampsia earlier.
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