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Progesterone Test May Help Determine Risk of Miscarriage

a blog by Claire, September 28, 2012

There is very little that can reduce the anguish of miscarriage, but a test for those who are experiencing symptoms may better be able to prepare couples for the eventual loss and provide them with the information more quickly. Researchers have found that a single test of progesterone levels for women who are experiencing abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy could help determine whether the pregnancy is viable or nonviable.

A miscarriage is a pregnancy that ends on its own before 20 weeks. Studies have shown that 10 to 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Approximately one-third of women will experience vaginal bleeding or pain in early pregnancy, and doctors often use ultrasound to test whether the pregnancy is viable or non-viable. However, the ultrasound test can sometimes be inconclusive.

British researchers set out to determine the accuracy with which a single progesterone measurement in early pregnancy could discriminate between a viable and non-viable pregnancy. They did a systematic review and meta-analysis of 26 diagnostic accuracy studies involving 9,436 women who were less than 14 weeks pregnant. The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal found that a low level of progesterone in these women can rule out a viable pregnancy in the vast majority of cases. The test was most accurate when performed in conjunction with a vaginal ultrasound.

Among women who did not have ultrasounds, 96 percent of those with low progesterone levels — below 10 ng/mL — had a nonviable pregnancy. The researchers stress, however, that low progesterone levels may occur in some viable pregnancies and that the test should be used in conjunction with another diagnostic test. The test also cannot determine whether the pregnancy is ectopic, meaning that the pregnancy is occurring outside the uterus and is non-viable.

For more information on miscarriage, please visit FertilityAuthority's Miscarriage section.


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