Blood tests may identify women with lupus who are at high risk for complications during pregnancy, according to a new study.
Lupus is an immune system disorder known to increase the chances of pregnancy problems such as preeclampsia and miscarriage.
This new research found that monitoring for certain “biomarkers” — or indicators — in the blood of lupus patients during early pregnancy can identify those who are likely to have normal pregnancies and those who are at risk for problems, the study’s authors said.
The researchers analyzed data from 497 pregnant women with lupus and 207 pregnant women without the disease. They were checked every month of pregnancy.
The study found that biomarkers called circulating angiogenic factors — which regulate development of the placenta and influence the health of blood vessels in the mother — can be assessed early in pregnancy.
As early as 12 to 15 weeks into pregnancies, changes in these biomarkers can signal risk for complications such as the blood pressure problem preeclampsia, fetal growth problems, preterm birth and death of the fetus or newborn, the study authors said.
Analyzing these biomarkers could also rule out increased risk of severe complications in most patients, resulting in less anxiety and more appropriate care, according to the authors of the study published Sept. 29 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
“Given that over 20 percent of pregnant women with [lupus] experience adverse pregnancy outcomes, the ability to identify patients early in pregnancy, who are destined for poor outcomes, would significantly impact care of this high risk population,” lead investigator Dr. Jane Salmon, of the Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, said in a journal news release.
The study shows that when levels of the biomarkers are normal, 95 percent of women with lupus will have no pregnancy complications, according to Dr. Roberto Romero, the journal’s editor-in-chief for obstetrics.
“Therefore, the simple measurement of these biomarkers can be highly reassuring to mothers, families and physicians,” Romero, chief of the Perinatology Research Branch at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in the news release.
The Lupus Foundation of America has more about lupus and pregnancy.