New research on Monday called for a personalized screening algorithm in the first trimester of pregnancy to aid the early detection of preeclampsia — a life-threatening form of high blood pressure during pregnancy.

The research, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension, showed that the new screening algorithm combining maternal history, ultrasound data and several tests for blood markers may help better predict preeclampsia in the first trimester — while it may still be preventable.

Preeclampsia, where the blood pressure in a pregnant woman can shoot to more than 140/90 mm Hg, is a leading cause of maternal death worldwide. It can cause headaches, vision changes, and swelling of the mother’s hands, feet, face or eyes; and also affect the baby with preterm birth and also death.

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“Preeclampsia is one of the most severe illnesses of pregnancy and may lead to preterm birth and/or maternal death,” said senior study author Emmanuel Bujold, Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada.

Bujold noted that while “the biological mechanisms that lead to preeclampsia usually start in the first trimester of pregnancy (weeks 1 through 12), the initial symptoms most often do not appear before week 20.”

To understand if the new screening algorithm — using a combination of ultrasound and blood biomarker tests — works, the team recruited over 7,000 women with first-time pregnancies across Canada who were between 11 and 14 weeks pregnant.

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The method could detect preeclampsia in 63.1 percent of cases before 37 weeks of gestation, and in 77.3 percent of cases before 34 weeks of gestation, the team said.