Researchers find accurate way to predict miscarriage

Tue Jul 5, 2011 4:46am EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British fertility researchers have developed an accurate way to predict which pregnancies are most likely to miscarry and say it could help doctors target treatment at women who really need it.

In a study presented at European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Stockholm, researchers found six factors with the greatest impact on miscarriage risk -- a history of subfertility, levels of progesterone and of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), fetus length, the extent of bleeding, and the baby's gestational age.

Individually, these factors were unable to predict accurately the risk of miscarriage, but when the researchers combined two of them -- bleeding and hCG levels -- to create a "Pregnancy Viability Index" (PVI), they found this was a consistently reliable predictor of miscarriage.

"This research has, for the first time, offered us a robust tool to begin to attempt to rescue pregnancies threatening to miscarry when currently all we can do is fold our hands and hope for the best," said Kaltum Adam of Britain's St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, who led the study.

Around 20 percent of all pregnancies threaten to miscarry and about up to 20 percent of those do. Until now, doctors had no way to predict which threatened miscarriages would result in the end of the pregnancy and so could not target rescue attempts at the right women or offer them counseling.

In Britain, around 250,000 miscarriages occur every year, causing significant psychological distress to affected women and their families.

"This has led to wasteful and potentially harmful interventions, including unnecessary blood tests, ultrasound scans, hospital admissions for bed rest, sexual abstinence, low dose aspirin and progesterone supplementation," Adam said.

Between 2009 and 2010, Adam's team followed 112 women with threatened miscarriages who were between six and 10 weeks pregnant. During the five weeks of the study the women had ultrasound scans, weekly charting of pain and bleeding and weekly tests to check the levels of progesterone and hCG.   Continued...

<p>A pregnant woman is monitored with a cardiotocograph shortly before the birth of her baby at the Munich hospital 'Rechts der Isar' January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle</p>