Health & Science

New test can detect preeclampsia as early as first trimester

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A new medical test just entered the market that can detect preeclampsia as early as the first trimester of pregnancy. The blood test from Labcorp can help pregnant people assess their risk level for preeclampsia before they even start to show symptoms of the condition. It’s meant to be used early on in pregnancy, between 11 and 14 weeks, and can help determine the risk of someone developing preeclampsia by 34 weeks of pregnancy.

The test is still very new, so it hasn’t yet been recommended by any medical or public health institutions such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. However, it may be a helpful tool in assessing which patients should be vigilant of signs of preeclampsia, or take preventative measures early on in their pregnancy. 

What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition that affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnant people. In people with preeclampsia, blood vessels in the placenta don’t circulate blood properly, which experts believe can lead to irregular blood pressure regulation in the pregnant person.

People with preeclampsia might experience high blood pressure, kidney damage, or other organ damage. The condition usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in people whose blood pressure had previously been in the standard range.

Symptoms of preeclampsia to look out for include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Severe headaches
  • Changes in vision, including temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity
  • Shortness of breath, caused by fluid in the lungs
  • Pain in the upper belly, usually under the ribs on the right side
  • Nausea or vomiting

What are the risk factors?

In some cases, preeclampsia can be life-threatening to the parent and baby, but it can typically be managed with rest and medication. The Labcorp test, along with other risk factors, can be assessed early in a pregnancy, and preventative measures may be prescribed to high-risk individuals. 

Risk factors for developing preeclampsia include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • A BMI indicating obesity
  • Being short in height
  • Having nutritional deficiencies
  • High blood pressure in previous pregnancies
  • A history of autoimmune disorders

Preventative measures for high-risk patients include increased blood pressure monitoring, the use of low-dose aspirin after 12 weeks of pregnancy, increasing gentle physical activity, as well as healthy eating during pregnancy—particularly reducing salt in the diet. 

If you are pregnant and experiencing any symptoms of preeclampsia, or have any of the risk factors, let your obstetrician know right away. Call 911 if your symptoms are severe. 


Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.