Doctors Closer to Cure for Deadly Pregnancy Disease

pregnant bellyIt used to drive me nuts when women told me their pregnancy horror stories when I was pregnant. I wanted to plug my ears and instead hear the whislting of birds and envision a beautifully serene labor that resulted in my adorable twins popping out in a rainbow of light. Still, it does help to be informed but just not in a freak-out kind of way. Which leads me to preeclampsia.

Nearly 100,000 women die each year from this deadly pregnancy disease, with up to 20 percent of pregnant women getting it. Yet the only cure is to 'terminate' the pregnancy, which means women who are diagnosed early often have to deliver very premature babies.

More needs to be done, and apparently researchers in Australia have made some new discoveries that could lead to better treatment or a cure so moms can have healthy pregnancies that go to term. 


The scientists in Melbourne found that there is a toxin released by placenta that causes preeclampsia. This toxin is released from a molecule that sits on the placenta and "acts like a scissor", cutting it, causing the toxin to attack a woman's organs.

It's a scary thing when it happens -- I had severe preeclampsia/HELLP syndrome, and before I go on, if it's something you don't want to know about, now is the time to plug your eyes and cue the birds chirping. My blood pressure spiked and I was nearing seizure and stroke. Thankfully this came on late in my twin pregnancy -- 36 weeks -- and ending my pregnancy by delivering my babies by emergency c-section saved us all. Still, there are many women who weren't as lucky as I was. 

Associate Professor Stephen Tong says the discovery of this toxin being released by the placenta is significant but treatment is still at least 10 years away. They need to create a drug to stop these so-called molecular scissors (Metalloproteinase 14 or MMP14) from slicing into the placenta. Apparently the "toxin" isn't dangerous to the mother if it stays in the placenta.

It seems as though many researchers are working hard toward a cure, which is fantastic because too many women I know have had this. There is a preeclampsia prediction test coming soon that helps detect it better than standard blood pressure checks. And many doctors encourage a special diet for women at risk. It's something I hope no woman ever has to go through and I'm so glad more is being done.

What do you think of the newest research on preeclampsia? Have you had it or know someone who has?


Image via David Boyle/Flickr

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