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Antenatal health home testing

Find out about the latest developments in pregnancy health home testing kits.
Over the past few years the way that we approach our health has changed dramatically and a trend towards self diagnosis has emerged. This has been particularly facilitated by the growing number of home testing kits available. However, until now, pregnancy seemed to buck the trend, with the vast majority of antenatal checks being carried out by health care professionals.

Over the past couple of weeks news has emerged of testing kits that have been developed to allow pregnant women to hold more responsibility and control over their own health and that of their growing baby. It is possible that the widespread introduction of these tests may set in motion a trend that revolutionises the way that antenatal health is monitored.

Boy or Girl?

If you are one of the many parents who wish to find out the sex of your baby before he or she arrives you would, until recently, have had to wait until your 20 week scan to find out whether you should paint your nursery pink or blue. However, a new test that reliably predicts gender at 6 weeks is now available over the internet.

The test utilises a tiny sample of the expectant mother's blood which is analysed for signs of the developing baby's DNA. By searching for the presence (boy) or absence (girl) of Y chromosome in the blood, the sex of the foetus can be 'confidently predicted'.

While there are concerns about the ethics of this test, especially in countries where one sex is favoured over the other, it does allow parents-to-be to discover whether they are expecting a boy or a girl very early on.

Pre-eclampsia

While the test described above is of medical value to some extent, although more for those who are concerned about the risk of their baby inheriting a genetic disorder than for the masses, another new test has been developed that could help to save thousands of lives.

This home testing kit will help expectant mothers to check for signs of pre-eclampsia, a medical condition that can be incredibly dangerous for both mother and baby. It occurs during the final stages of pregnancy and is caused by a defect of the placenta that not only disrupts the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the foetus, but also causes kidney and blood pressure problems for the mother. There is no treatment for pre-eclampsia, the only action that can be taken is immediate delivery of the baby, so prompt detection of this often symptomless condition is vital.

At the moment blood pressure and urine samples are analysed during antenatal health visits as a means of predicting pre-eclampsia, however these methods are not 100% reliable. So, by enabling mothers-to-be to test themselves for signs of pre-eclampsia at home (the test detects levels of urate in the expectant mother's saliva), earlier intervention will be possible and lower risk will be endured by mother and baby.

Although this test is not yet readily available, initial trials seem to have produced positive results and a large, real patient study is now being undertaken at Chichester hospital. So, hopefully in the not too distant future this test will be available to all pregnant women so that the incidence and danger of pre-eclampsia will decrease dramatically.

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