A life-saving blood test that can rule out potentially fatal diseases in pregnant women is set to be rolled out across the NHS in England.

The same-day results are hoped to be reassuring to thousands of pregnant women every year across the country, as well as avoiding the need for hospital stays.

The testing – known as placental growth factor (PLGF) testing – is the first of its kind in the world to rule out pre-eclampsia and is already being used in three quarters of maternity units in England.

What is Pre-eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia, which usually occurs later in pregnancy, can be life-threatening for both pregnant women and their babies.

Early symptoms include high blood pressure and a certain protein in the mother’s urine.

According to the NHS, in some cases, further symptoms can include:

  • swelling of the feet, ankles, face and hands caused by fluid retention (oedema)
  • severe headache
  • vision problems
  • pain just below the ribs

Currently 65,000 expectant mothers a year are admitted to hospital for up to three days to be monitored for the condition, NHS England said.

The testing will be available across all of England within the next two years, the organisation added.

New NHS testing can save lives

NHS clinical director for maternity and women’s health Matthew Jolly said: “Pre-eclampsia is a life-threatening condition for both mum and baby if left untreated and this is why the NHS takes every precaution possible when soon-to-be mums have some of the early signs, like high blood pressure.

“This new way of testing means we can rule out the condition in a much quicker and easier way – it removes the stress that comes with the uncertainty around not having a diagnosis and will reassure thousands of pregnant women every year.”

NHS director of innovation, research and life sciences Matt Whitty said: “This test is quick and easy and can rule out a condition that has for a long time been the cause of such stress to tens of thousands of pregnant women every year, whether they have pre-eclampsia or not.

“This latest innovation will benefit thousands of patients who have until now been put through extensive testing and possible hospital stays as the NHS continues to deliver on ambitious Long Term Plan commitments to provide patients with the most up to date tech, as quickly as possible.”