Scientists have come out with a new method to predict sudden spikes in blood pressure during middle to late pregnancy, a condition known as preeclampsia that could sometimes prove fatal to women.

Using metabolic profiling, the approach tracks metabolites in the blood plasma that could help doctors predict incidence of preeclampsia in pregnant women and reduce the fatality risk substantially.

An international team of researchers identified 14 metabolite targets that could be monitored during early pregnancy in order to avoid the risk of high blood pressure during the later stages.

The results of the study, published in the latest edition of Hypertension, suggest that closely monitoring these biomarkers could help reduce the risk of preeclampsia, a life-threatening condition characterized by high blood pressure and high doses of protein in the pregnant woman's urine.

Lead author Dr. Louise C. Kenny says women do not show signs of preeclampsia till late pregnancy but the actual problem starts off early in during the pregnancy. "This is why we need to develop treatment and prevention strategies in early pregnancy itself," says Dr. Kenny, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Anu Research Center, University College Cork, Ireland.

The condition is known to impact about five percent of all pregnancies and is a major cause of maternal death globally, says a press release issued by the American Heart Association.

As part of the research, Dr. Kenny and her colleagues analyzed data from 7,000 women who participated in a study related to first-time pregnancies. Describing it as among the most detailed metabolic screening ever performed, the researchers said their work will now focus on developing a simple blood test that will be able to detect the risk of preeclampsia among women.