Pregnancy can be a wonderful experience, but in some cases, it can lead to serious – and even potentially fatal – medical complications. It is routine for women to have full blood count tests during their pregnancy, and this is used to monitor their ongoing health during the pregnancy, identifying conditions such as iron deficiency.
Could we also use the full blood count data to identify women at risk of serious complications, in particular pre-eclampsia? Pre-eclampsia is one of the major causes of pregnancy-related death; being able to identify at-risk women more effectively would be of significant benefit (there are simple treatments that can significantly reduce their risk).
The first step to doing this is to establish reference ranges for the full blood count results. While reference ranges for healthy adults are well-known, it is known that pregnant women have a significantly different full blood count profile. Even so, no-one has yet published reference ranges for different stages of pregnancy. With our data, we are now able to do this.
With the reference ranges in place, our ambition is to assess whether a full blood count taken early in pregnancy can identify women at risk of developing severe pre-eclampsia later in their pregnancy. If this is possible, we would be able to help hospitals around the world reduce the chances of this complication.