According to a new study by scientists at the Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine, a simple blood test could be used to tell women the likelihood of a pregnancy ending in miscarriage.
Sadly, one in four pregnancies fail here in the UK, a statistic that rises as women get older. A miscarriage is defined as a pregnancy that ends before the 24th week. For years, scientists have been trying to work out whether miscarriage can be predicted or prevented.
In a study of nearly 2,000 pregnant women who had been through IVF, the scientists found low levels of the hormone beta-human chorionic gonadotrophin soon after conception were linked to an increase risk of miscarriage.
What does this hormone do?
In simple terms, beta-human chorionic gonadotrophin is made when cells form in the placenta, to nourish the egg and help it attach to the wall of the uterus during implantation. During pregnancy, levels of the hormone are expected to rise steadily, especially during the first trimester.
In the study, when the hormone levels were below 30 units per litre, the success rate of pregnancy was only 2%. If women had between 50 to 70 litres of the hormone, pregnancy success rose to 52%. Finally, if women had more than 70 litres, they had an 86% chance of having a healthy pregnancy.
These findings mean that IVF patients and clinicians could have more than just a positive pregnancy test to predict the outcome of their treatment.
Marco Gaudoin, from GCRM said: ‘The [hormone] level gives us a clear guide, helping us to counsel patients about the likelihood of a miscarriage, which in turn will help us to better prepare patients psychologically and emotionally.’