Simple Test May Predict Miscarriage for Scared Pregnant Women

I had a scare during my first pregnancy that involved a startling amount of bleeding, a rushed trip to the hospital, and a couple of hours hooked to a fetal monitor. As it turned out, everything was perfectly fine -- but I'll never forget the heart-dropping feeling that everything we'd been hoping for was about to come crashing down around us.

Imagine if I'd been able to take a single test, right then, that would have determined my progesterone levels and informed me whether or not I was headed for a miscarriage? That's the possibility raised in a new study published today. For women experiencing cramping and bleeding, a progesterone test may be able to help distinguish between a viable and nonviable pregnancy.

It all sounds very interesting ... but I can't help thinking about the utterly devastating possibility of false results.

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Researchers looked at information from over 9,000 women who were less than 14 weeks pregnant and had experienced abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, and found that for women with progesterone levels below 3 to 6 nanograms per milliliter, the probability of a nonviable pregnancy rose to more than 99 percent. For those with progesterone levels below 10 ng/mL, 96 percent had a nonviable pregnancy.

The study doesn't appear to be recommending anything yet -- it mostly seems to be saying, "Hey, it may be that a progesterone test would be a good thing to add to treatment for women with pain or bleeding early in pregnancy." After all, about a third of pregnant women experience these scary symptoms, and an ultrasound can be inconclusive.

It sounds like the progesterone level tests are fairly accurate, but obviously, nothing is 100 percent. Can you imagine the horrific possibility of a woman being told her pregnancy was going to end -- when everything was actually fine? Or perhaps worse, the opposite scenario.

Still, even with the potential for incorrect results, it seems like more information is always a good thing. I think it would be a great healthcare option to have access to a relatively simple test that could reassure a scared pregnant woman ... or help prepare her for the heartbreak ahead. I know progesterone tests are often done on women struggling with infertility, or those who have experienced multiple miscarriages, but maybe with these study results, testing will become more common for those who aren't sure if their cramping is totally normal ... or something more serious.

What do you think about this sort of test becoming more available?


Image via kouk/Flickr

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