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Some Women More at Risk of Pregnancy Problem

Study Highlights List of Risk Factors for Preeclampsia
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"Clinicians have long known about these risk factors, but I think the strength of some of these associations will surprise some people," University of Glasgow, Scotland, obstetrics and gynecology professor Ian A. Greer, MD, tells WebMD.

In the new review, published in the March 12 issue of the British Journal of Medicine, Duckitt and colleague Deborah Harrington reviewed 52 preeclampsia studies conducted between 1966 and 2002.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Greer wrote that much more could be done to identify pregnant women at risk for preeclampsia.

"Why have we failed when the identification of women at risk, and the diagnosis of preeclampsia through the measurement of blood pressure and urine, is arguably the most important aspect of a regular (prenatal) assessment?" he writes.

Fiona Milne of the U.K. group Action on Preeclampsia tells WebMD that all pregnant women need to know their individual risk factors for preeclampsia, see their doctors often, and make sure their blood pressure and urine are checked during every office visit.

"We know that this condition develops from diagnosis to the point where a woman could potentially die within an average of about two weeks," Milne says. "Preeclampsia can be identified with a simple check of blood pressure and urine analysis. This isn't rocket science."

Texas ob-gyn Susan M. Ramin, MD, tells WebMD that doctors in the U.S. tend to do a good job of identifying preeclampsia in their patients. Ramin directs the division of maternal and fetal medicine at the University of Texas Science Center at Houston.

"If a woman is getting regular prenatal care she will have her weight and blood pressure and urine checked regularly," she says. "We know what the risks are. The problem is that we don't have good treatments unless a woman is at term and can deliver."

Ramin is involved in a National Institutes of Health-funded study to determine whether the antioxidant vitamins C and E can protect women against preeclampsia. Roughly 10,000 women who are giving birth to their first babies will be enrolled in the trial.

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