New Study Shines Light on Stillbirth Pregnancy Detection

A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association last week proclaims that a blood test early in pregnancy may determine whether a woman may run an increased risk of having a stillborn baby.

The loss of a baby is a desperate situation any expecting mother can go through and for African American and Hispanic women, who are at greater risk of stillbirths than their white counterparts, the issue is a major factor in their pregnancy. If the results of the study are confirmed, this discovery may be a great breakthrough for these minority communities.

The blood test administered would detect the presence of a protein, called PAPP-A or pregnancy-associated plasma protein A, which when in low levels is believed to signal that the mother’s placenta, the nourishment device for the fetus, is not functioning properly.

About one in 200 babies born in the United States are considered stillbirth or born dead on or after the sixth month of pregnancy.

Up to now there has been no proven method of determining a women’s chances of carrying stillborn though high blood pressure, diabetes, and older age are considered factors that may increase one’s risk.

Once determined a high risk pregnancy, these expecting mothers are usually heavily monitored during their last term, and fetal heart monitors and ultrasound imaging are used to look for signs that fetus is in danger.

Dr. Gordon Smith of Cambridge University in England, the study’s lead author, says that women considered high risk because of their blood test could be watched more closely during pregnancy to see whether the fetus is growing properly, and the baby could be delivered earlier to try to save its life.

The study, which monitored 7934 Scottish throughout the course of their pregnancy, found that the women with the lowest amounts of PAPP-A were 40 times more likely too have a stillbirth due to placenta dysfunctions.

Out of 400 women with levels of PAPP-A in the lowest fifth percentile, eight of them carried stillbirths compared to 17 among the remaining 7534 with normal levels of the protein. The results equaled to one in every 50 women with low protein levels to be victim of stillbirth.

Low levels of the protein have also been associated with higher risk of Down syndrome, a genetic abnormality that causes mental retardation.