NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Many pregnant women develop symptoms like swelling and headaches, but those could also be signs of a very dangerous condition called pre-eclampsia.

Now, a new test to diagnose it on the spot is helping to keep moms and babies safe.

When Jessi Prizinsky was pregnant with her first child, she didn’t worry too much when she noticed her feet swelling.

“Well, you hear everybody tell you… the swollen ankles and get your feet up and all that. That was where I thought, ‘okay,’ and then it started to be… it kind of looks like it’s in my arms and hands too,” Prizinsky explained.

The swelling was caused by pre-eclampsia, a condition that affects about five percent of pregnancies and can be life-threatening to both mother and child.

“One of the hard parts with pre-eclampsia is there’s a lot of symptoms of just pregnancy alone and other medical conditions that have similar symptoms that the women experience like high blood pressure, headaches, changes in vision, those can be attributed to a lot of other things,” Dr. Kara Rood from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said.

If pre-eclampsia is suspected, extensive and invasive tests are required. Labor may be induced early to alleviate dangerously high blood pressure or seizures.

A new study shows that a simple test can accurately diagnose the condition in just three minutes, allowing critical care to begin right away.

“It’s so easy to use, it’s non-invasive and it takes very little resources to actually conduct the test,” Dr. Rood explained.

The test uses a special dye that reacts to the proteins present in the urine of women with pre-eclampsia, providing a fast diagnosis and preventing unnecessary admissions.

“Without the certainty of this test aiding in the diagnosis, we as providers are definitely overcautious as this is definitely something we don’t want to miss because of the life-threatening results of a misdiagnosis for moms and babies,” Dr. Rood added.

Due to her pre-eclampsia, Jessi was induced three weeks early. She was more aware of the signs with her second pregnancy.

“The biggest thing is listening to your body,” Prizinsky said.

The test is even easy enough for women to take at home so pre-eclampsia can be identified and treated as soon as it develops.

Researchers expect the test to be approved by the FDA in the next few years so that it can be used by OB/GYNs nationwide.


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