Women’s Health: Doctors develop easier test for high blood pressure in pregnancy

Risk for the complication can be evaluated with a single urine sample instead of 24-hour collection

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High levels of protein in the urine could signal a serious pregnancy complication known as pre-eclampsia, but the standard test, involving 24 hours of urine collection, is fraught with problems. Canadian researchers believe a single urine sample can be used instead.

Pre-eclampsia can occur in the second half of pregnancy, and involves high blood pressure and swelling of the face and hands. The only cure is delivery of the baby, but doctors may choose to manage the condition through bed rest and close monitoring until the baby has a good chance of surviving outside the womb.

Dr. Annie Lamontagne of the University of Montreal says 24-hour urine collection is the gold standard for measuring protein in the urine, but the test is time-consuming and expensive, and the results could be rendered inaccurate if the collection isn’t done properly.

As an alternative, Lamontagne says doctors could use the ratio of protein to a substance called creatinine in a single urine sample. She and her colleagues found that this more convenient test was just as accurate as 24-hour urine collection.

Lamontagne notes the protein-to-creatinine ratio is a standard test in adults and children, but there has been little consensus on its use during pregnancy. Her team compared the protein-to-creatinine ratio with 24-hour urine collection in 88 pregnant women being tested for high blood pressure and found there was a high level of agreement between the two tests.