Pre-eclampsia affects up to 300,000 pregnant women in the U.S. every year. It's a dangerous condition characterized by high blood pressure in the mom-to-be. But researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina may have discovered a breakthrough that could lead to better outcomes.
Charis Johnson is part of the clinical trial that the school is conducting on a possible new treatment for preeclampsia. With three kids of her own, she has a special interest in the study.
"My kids mean, are my world. Without them, there is no me."
Charis had preeclampsia while pregnant with her youngest son, Rhayden. With her blood pressure dangerously high, she had to deliver early. Rhayden weighed just two pounds twelve ounces.
Doctor Christopher Robinson, from the Medical University of South Carolina, says delivery is the only cure for Preeclampsia.
"The one thing we can do to impact the morbidity and mortality risk surrounding that pre-term delivery is to give the mother steroids."
Dr. Robinson is studying the drug Digibind to buy time, so Moms can get the optimal dose of those much needed steroids before they're forced to deliver.
"The primary goal is to give that mother enough time to get 48 hours of steroids."
He says giving steroids for 48 hours before delivery lowers the baby's risk of stroke, lung disease, and even death.
"It's giving us another window of opportunity to intervene on behalf of the baby prior to delivery to prevent catastrophic outcomes."
Early studies show Digibind improves blood pressure and leads to better outcomes for babies. Charis doesn't yet know if she got the drug in the double blind study or not, but she believes something helped Rhayden.
"I think of him as my Godsend child. I call him Hercules, because you see he is so strong."
And with baby number four on the way, knowing this study is going on gives Charis peace of mind.
Digibind has been on the market for more than 20 years as a treatment for patients who overdose on a specific heart drug. It is not approved for Pre-eclampsia treatment, because the study is ongoing. It is currently the only drug in the U.S. being studied for the condition.