The promise of changing the future of pregnancy health is what drives us at Mirvie. Through our groundbreaking RNA platform to predict pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia months in advance, we’ll soon be able to provide the tools to predict and prevent pregnancy complications before they occur.
In everything we do, the patient comes first - and that is why it is so important to listen to the experiences of moms and birthing people. Please take a moment to read Jenny’s story about her preeclampsia journey, and how having a test to predict preeclampsia could have helped Jenny and so many others like her.
Jenny was 36 weeks pregnant with her first child and getting ready to attend her own baby shower when contractions started. As they grew progressively more uncomfortable, she went to the hospital and found out she wasn’t in labor, but unknowingly, she had elevated blood pressure and protein in her urine – signs of preeclampsia that often are silent.
“They told me I was going to have to be admitted,” Jenny recalls. “And I said, ‘ I can't really be admitted. I mean, it's too early. And, you know, I have a baby shower to go to.’ They said, ‘Well, you're having a baby today.’”
Preeclampsia, diagnosed after the 20th week of pregnancy, can develop gradually or come on suddenly like Jenny’s. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, the rate of preeclampsia in the United States has increased 25 percent in the last two decades and is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death.
Preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy impact an estimated 13% of all births in the United States today. Sometimes, as in Jenny’s situation, preeclampsia can develop silently, with no symptoms at all. Other times, symptoms can include headache that will not go away, sudden weight gain or swelling (especially in the hands, feet, or face), vision changes (seeing spots, blurry vision), pain in the upper abdomen, and shortness of breath.
As Jenny progressed in labor, she was treated with magnesium sulfate, which prevents seizures in women with preeclampsia. Later that night, she delivered her son, who spent time in the special care nursery after birth for monitoring. Now a mother of three and NICU nurse herself, Jenny looks back on her experience wishing she had been better prepared for potential pregnancy complications. Although her doctor had explained preeclampsia symptoms to watch out for, she didn’t experience anything that warranted concern until the morning she started having contractions.
“I think that we take pregnancy for granted,” Jenny says. “I guess me being on the NICU side, I see just truly how much of a miracle having a healthy pregnancy is. There are so many complications that could happen at any stage of a pregnancy and even after delivery both to baby and to mom. The more we know and the more we can better prepare our moms in those situations, the better it will be for babies and for moms.”
A challenge and opportunity
According to Mirvie’s recent Future of Pregnancy Health Report, based on a survey of more than 1,000 new and expecting moms, most say they have a good understanding of preeclampsia. However, only one in 10 were able to identify all of the common symptoms. The report also found:
These numbers present a challenge and an opportunity. There’s an urgent need to identify who’s most at risk of complications and tailor education and preventive care toward them. New and expecting moms also believe knowing their risks would help them engage in proactive, personalized and preventive care.
“One of the most inspiring things we found in the survey was that over 90% of women said they would want a predictive test for preeclampsia or other pregnancy complications,” says Dr. Alison Cowan, OB/GYN and Head of Medical Affairs at Mirvie. “It’s clear that new and expecting moms want more information about their pregnancies and potential complications. And even more importantly, women told us that they would act on these results.”
Knowing your risk
Some have risk factors for developing preeclampsia, but many who develop the disease have no risk factors at all. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, health or pregnancy history. Jenny says she would have been more cautious had she known she was at risk for developing it.
“I’m sure I would have been looking to see how I could keep it from happening,” she says. “If I had known in my first pregnancy that this was something I needed to be concerned with, I definitely would have been more proactive in my care.”
Prevention can include a variety of changes to routine care, such as taking baby aspirin, increasing exercise, and increasing the frequency of monitoring, something that might have helped in Jenny’s case, since she never developed symptoms of preeclampsia.
“For patients who are at increased risk of preeclampsia, there are many tools available to personalize care and decrease the risk of it developing,” Cowan says. “In addition, if preeclampsia does develop, it’s more likely to be caught early if women and their care team are being vigilant for it. This is why it’s important for women to talk with their doctors about their risk early.”
While most women with preeclampsia will deliver healthy babies and fully recover, some women experience complications. Delays in diagnosis or management of preeclampsia can lead to the deaths of women and their babies before, during or after birth. This is one reason why the platform Mirvie is developing is so important.
“It will give a sense of control to moms, knowing what potentially could happen and preparing for it,” Jenny says.
Experiences like Jenny’s are shaping the future of pregnancy health. Recent advancements in genomics and machine learning make it possible to understand the underlying biology of pregnancy, paving the way for personalization in early detection of disease.
The technology Mirvie is developing will offer expecting parents a roadmap for their future. By knowing their personal risk of preeclampsia, preterm labor, and potentially other complications, they will be able to do everything possible to prevent these complications from occurring.