A blood test early in pregnancy may be able to identify women at risk of having a low-birthweight baby, a study suggests.
That, in turn, could enable mothers-to-be to take precautions, which can include various medicines, better diet, more exercise and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes.
Researchers analyzed first-trimester blood samples from 4,288 British women who delivered normal babies at full term. The researchers measured levels of a protein called pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A, or PAPP-A. Mothers with very low PAPP-A levels during the first trimester were found to be more likely to have small babies.
That finding may allow the development of a diagnostic test to predict birthweights, said Dr. Benjamin Tycko, a Columbia University pathologist.
Low-birthweight babies -- those born 5 1/2 pounds or less -- run a higher risk of physical or mental development problems as newborns, along with an increased chance of heart disease, diabetes and respiratory problems later in life.
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