Ultrasounds are the most popular method to monitor a pregnancy and find out its due date. However, this method might be a little too expensive for undeveloped countries, but researchers from Stanford Medicine have found a solution. They have discovered a cheap and effective way to identify a pregnancy’s due date – a blood test.
The blood test could predict the pregnancy due date
For the study, researchers selected 31 pregnant women and collected blood samples from them every week during their pregnancy. Then, they could sequence genes belonging to the mother and the fetus and study the RNA in them. This way, they noticed how this RNA started shifting as the pregnancy was evolving.
During the second stage of the study, they split the women in two groups. Based on the first one, they built a model that indicated the stage of a pregnancy. Then, they tested the model on the second group and obtained results of 45 percent accuracy. In other words, the due date they estimated varied by 14 days from the actual delivery date.
This method might be better than ultrasound in some cases
At a first look, this blood test isn’t too accurate. However, when you compare it with ultrasound, it’s not a big difference. At the beginning of the pregnancy, this method is only 48 percent accurate. Also, it requires the woman to know the date of her last menstruation, a problem that the blood test can solve. As the pregnancy advances, ultrasounds can get less accurate, while the test improves its accuracy.
Apart from predicting the due date, researchers also used blood tests to tell if women are likely to give birth prematurely. This way, they built a different RNA model, as they used genes from the mother and placenta. They assumed the mother, and not the baby, is triggering a premature birth, and the results were 75 to 80 percent accurate.
These results are great, as they highlight a more affordable method to identify the due date and a premature birth. However, it’s still a long way until it can be used to replace ultrasounds. The next step is to test the method on a broader segment of the population with women from a more diverse background. This study was published in the journal Science.
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