Researchers at Edith Cowan University have developed a simple and cost-effective test to predict preeclampsia, a dangerous disorder occurring in pregnant women.

Identified as a leading cause of maternal-foetal mortality, preeclampsia claims the lives of approximately 76,000 mothers and 500,000 babies each year.

Preeclampsia causes brain and liver injury, as well as many other complications in mothers, such as premature birth.

The researchers evaluated the Suboptimal Health Questionnaire, which was answered by 593 pregnant women in Ghana to understand their health status.

Developed in 2009 by Professor Wei Wang of ECU’s School of Health and Medical Sciences, the Suboptimal Health Questionnaire combines scores for heart health, fatigue, digestion, immunity and mental health.

This questionnaire then offers a complete suboptimal health score, which can help predict pregnancy disorders.

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By GlobalData

Edith Cowan University PhD student Enoch Anto found that 61% of women scoring high on the questionnaire developed preeclampsia against 17% who scored low.

The women were also put through blood tests to measure calcium and magnesium levels. The combination of the questionnaire and blood tests enabled researchers to predict preeclampsia.

Anto said: “Preeclampsia was very treatable once identified, so providing an early warning could save thousands of lives.

“In developing nations, preeclampsia is a leading cause of death for both mothers and babies. In Ghana, it’s responsible for 18 per cent of maternal deaths.

“But it can be treated using medication that lowers blood pressure once diagnosed.

“Both blood tests for magnesium and calcium and the Suboptimal Health Questionnaire are inexpensive, making this ideally suited to the developing world where preeclampsia causes the most suffering.”

Last year, researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel identified 25 molecular biomarkers that could aid in early detection of preeclampsia.