Pregnant women could use a “wearable” app to detect whether they have or are susceptible to a condition that leads to serious health complications for them or their unborn child.
A Purdue University research team, led by Craig Goergen, an assistant professor in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, is developing a low-cost automated early detection sensor of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that can lead to high blood pressure and cause both organ damage and premature birth.
According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, 5% to 8% of pregnancies are diagnosed with preeclampsia, affecting nearly 7 million women worldwide. Preeclampsia is the No. 1 reason that doctors decide to deliver a baby prematurely.
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10% of all maternal deaths in Africa and Asia are associated with hypertensive disorders during pregnancy, and the figure is 25% of all maternal deaths in Latin America. Most of those deaths are avoidable, according to WHO.
Women using the app can send the results to a doctor’s office, a healthcare system, or a centralized network where the results can be reviewed and where they could receive counseling focused on care management and treatment options as early as possible.
The researchers received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2017 to advance the technology. The program is part of a family of initiatives by the foundation fostering innovation to solve key global and health development problems.