Researchers are developing an app and wearable technology to enable pregnant women to use a smartphone to detect whether they have or are susceptible to a condition that could lead to serious health complications for them or their unborn child.

The device uses the supine pressor test. (Credit: Purdue University)

The team is working to combine available existing technologies such as smart-phones, a conventional inflatable blood pressure cuff, and a wireless accelerometer (which measures body position) to build an innovative prototype that will detect preeclampsia before it develops.

The most innovative aspect of the researchers’ device is that it uses a simple but underused tool called the supine pressor test that can identify the risk for preeclampsia. The test assesses blood flow through the kidney, and 90 percent of women with a positive test eventually develop preeclampsia. The early detection enables more effective prevention strategies.

The device will measure whether a woman's blood pressure increases when she changes position from lying on her left side to lying on her back. If the diastolic pressure increases enough, it is a warning sign that a woman is susceptible to preeclampsia.

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