A new call to screen for preeclampsia

The US Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts that makes evidence-based recommendations about preventive medical services, recently updated its guidance on preeclampsia. It recommends that doctors screen all pregnant women for preeclampsia, a serious complication tied to high blood pressure. Expectant mothers should have their blood pressure checked throughout their pregnancy, even if they have no signs or symptoms of preeclampsia, according to the USPSTF.

Preeclampsia is associated with high blood pressure in pregnant women after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is one of the most serious health problems affecting pregnant women and is a leading cause of preterm delivery and low birth weight in the U.S. “Preeclampsia can progress quickly and lead to severe complications for both the mother and infant,” said Task Force member Maureen G. Phipps, M.D., M.P.H. “It is critical that women be screened for preeclampsia during every clinical visit throughout their pregnancy.”

Blood pressure screening has few harms, while complications from preeclampsia for the mother can include stroke, seizures and organ failure. Complications for the infant include slow growth inside the uterus, low birth weight, placental abruption, preterm labor, and even death. The only way to completely treat the condition is to deliver the baby, and often before the baby’s due date if the condition worsens. “If a pregnant woman has high blood pressure during a clinical visit, she should receive further testing and evaluation,” said Task Force vice chair David C. Grossman, M.D., M.P.H. “Several high blood pressure measurements are needed to diagnose preeclampsia.”

The recommendation was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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