A new test could predict from the earliest stage of pregnancy whether a woman will go on to suffer a miscarriage.
Researchers discovered measuring the levels of a type of protein in a woman's body as early as four weeks can indicate whether she will lose her baby.
Experts from the University of Heidelberg in Germany said that while a miscarriage can't be prevented, an early-screening test may help pregnant women ease their minds.
The study authors, in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, wrote: 'A miscarriage means an enormous distress for the patient and a predictive test with a negative result could be used to reassure anxious patients.
'On the other hand, a predictive test with a positive result can warn the patients in a very early stage of pregnancy, and will prohibit unnecessary prolongation of the current pregnancy.'
The study, the first of its kind, analysed 41 women between the age 18 and 42 who had conceived by IVF. Serum samples were taken at the time of pregnancy testing and the following first ultrasound checkup after approximately 10 days. The researchers didn't find anything significant at this point.
It was between four and six weeks of pregnancy the researchers observed patients who went on to have a miscarriage showed 'significantly' higher levels of periostin compared to those who went full term.
Periostin plays a key role is in implantation and early embryonic development. But elevated levels can be a sign of injury or inflammation.
The study concluded that periostin levels are 'a potential promising biomarker for pregnancy outcome assessment.'
Dr Hana Visnova, medical director of IVF Cube in Prague, Czech Republic, believes an early prediction test would be beneficial.
She claims, 'Miscarriages are far more common than people are sometimes willing to admit, so research into why they happen and how to prevent them is absolutely vital.
'Now, there are growing links between protein and the likelihood of a miscarriage, and periostin can be a vital marker, especially in women who have undergone IVF.'
Key points to preventing miscarriage
- No smoking during pregnancy
- No drinking alcohol or drug use during pregnancy
- Eat a healthy balanced diet