The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) initiative on pre-eclampsia: A pragmatic guide for first-trimester screening and prevention

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2019 May;145 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):1-33. doi: 10.1002/ijgo.12802.


Pre‐eclampsia (PE) is a multisystem disorder that typically affects 2%–5% of pregnant women and is one of the leading causes of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality, especially when the condition is of early onset. Globally, 76 000 women and 500 000 babies die each year from this disorder. Furthermore, women in low‐resource countries are at a higher risk of developing PE compared with those in high‐resource countries. Although a complete understanding of the pathogenesis of PE remains unclear, the current theory suggests a two‐stage process. The first stage is caused by shallow invasion of the trophoblast, resulting in inadequate remodeling of the spiral arteries. This is presumed to lead to the second stage, which involves the maternal response to endothelial dysfunction and imbalance between angiogenic and antiangiogenic factors, resulting in the clinical features of the disorder. Accurate prediction and uniform prevention continue to elude us. The quest to effectively predict PE in the first trimester of pregnancy is fueled by the desire to identify women who are at high risk of developing PE, so that necessary measures can be initiated early enough to improve placentation and thus prevent or at least reduce the frequency of its occurrence. Furthermore, identification of an “at risk” group will allow tailored prenatal surveillance to anticipate and recognize the onset of the clinical syndrome and manage it promptly. PE has been previously defined as the onset of hypertension accompanied by significant proteinuria after 20 weeks of gestation. Recently, the definition of PE has been broadened. Now the internationally agreed definition of PE is the one proposed by the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy (ISSHP). According to the ISSHP, PE is defined as systolic blood pressure at ≥140 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure at ≥90 mm Hg on at least two occasions measured 4 hours apart in previously normotensive women and is accompanied by one or more of the following new‐onset conditions at or after 20 weeks of gestation: 1.Proteinuria (i.e. ≥30 mg/mol protein:creatinine ratio; ≥300 mg/24 hour; or ≥2 + dipstick); 2.Evidence of other maternal organ dysfunction, including: acute kidney injury (creatinine ≥90 μmol/L; 1 mg/dL); liver involvement (elevated transaminases, e.g. alanine aminotransferase or aspartate aminotransferase >40 IU/L) with or without right upper quadrant or epigastric abdominal pain; neurological complications (e.g. eclampsia, altered mental status, blindness, stroke, clonus, severe headaches, and persistent visual scotomata); or hematological complications (thrombocytopenia–platelet count <150 000/μL, disseminated intravascular coagulation, hemolysis); or 3.Uteroplacental dysfunction (such as fetal growth restriction, abnormal umbilical artery Doppler waveform analysis, or stillbirth). It is well established that a number of maternal risk factors are associated with the development of PE: advanced maternal age; nulliparity; previous history of PE; short and long interpregnancy interval; use of assisted reproductive technologies; family history of PE; obesity; Afro‐Caribbean and South Asian racial origin; co‐morbid medical conditions including hyperglycemia in pregnancy; pre‐existing chronic hypertension; renal disease; and autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and antiphospholipid syndrome. These risk factors have been described by various professional organizations for the identification of women at risk of PE; however, this approach to screening is inadequate for effective prediction of PE. PE can be subclassified into: 1.Early‐onset PE (with delivery at <34+0 weeks of gestation); 2.Preterm PE (with delivery at <37+0 weeks of gestation); 3.Late‐onset PE (with delivery at ≥34+0 weeks of gestation); 4.Term PE (with delivery at ≥37+0 weeks of gestation). These subclassifications are not mutually exclusive. Early‐onset PE is associated with a much higher risk of short‐ and long‐term maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality. Obstetricians managing women with preterm PE are faced with the challenge of balancing the need to achieve fetal maturation in utero with the risks to the mother and fetus of continuing the pregnancy longer. These risks include progression to eclampsia, development of placental abruption and HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzyme, low platelet) syndrome. On the other hand, preterm delivery is associated with higher infant mortality rates and increased morbidity resulting from small for gestational age (SGA), thrombocytopenia, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cerebral palsy, and an increased risk of various chronic diseases in adult life, particularly type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Women who have experienced PE may also face additional health problems in later life, as the condition is associated with an increased risk of death from future cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, renal impairment, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. The life expectancy of women who developed preterm PE is reduced on average by 10 years. There is also significant impact on the infants in the long term, such as increased risks of insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, and hypertension in infants born to pre‐eclamptic women. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) brought together international experts to discuss and evaluate current knowledge on PE and develop a document to frame the issues and suggest key actions to address the health burden posed by PE. FIGO's objectives, as outlined in this document, are: (1) To raise awareness of the links between PE and poor maternal and perinatal outcomes, as well as to the future health risks to mother and offspring, and demand a clearly defined global health agenda to tackle this issue; and (2) To create a consensus document that provides guidance for the first‐trimester screening and prevention of preterm PE, and to disseminate and encourage its use. Based on high‐quality evidence, the document outlines current global standards for the first‐trimester screening and prevention of preterm PE, which is in line with FIGO good clinical practice advice on first trimester screening and prevention of pre‐eclampsia in singleton pregnancy.1 It provides both the best and the most pragmatic recommendations according to the level of acceptability, feasibility, and ease of implementation that have the potential to produce the most significant impact in different resource settings. Suggestions are provided for a variety of different regional and resource settings based on their financial, human, and infrastructure resources, as well as for research priorities to bridge the current knowledge and evidence gap. To deal with the issue of PE, FIGO recommends the following: Public health focus: There should be greater international attention given to PE and to the links between maternal health and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) on the Sustainable Developmental Goals agenda. Public health measures to increase awareness, access, affordability, and acceptance of preconception counselling, and prenatal and postnatal services for women of reproductive age should be prioritized. Greater efforts are required to raise awareness of the benefits of early prenatal visits targeted at reproductive‐aged women, particularly in low‐resource countries. Universal screening: All pregnant women should be screened for preterm PE during early pregnancy by the first‐trimester combined test with maternal risk factors and biomarkers as a one‐step procedure. The risk calculator is available free of charge at FIGO encourages all countries and its member associations to adopt and promote strategies to ensure this. The best combined test is one that includes maternal risk factors, measurements of mean arterial pressure (MAP), serum placental growth factor (PLGF), and uterine artery pulsatility index (UTPI). Where it is not possible to measure PLGF and/or UTPI, the baseline screening test should be a combination of maternal risk factors with MAP, and not maternal risk factors alone. If maternal serum pregnancy‐associated plasma protein A (PAPP‐A) is measured for routine first‐trimester screening for fetal aneuploidies, the result can be included for PE risk assessment. Variations to the full combined test would lead to a reduction in the performance screening. A woman is considered high risk when the risk is 1 in 100 or more based on the first‐trimester combined test with maternal risk factors, MAP, PLGF, and UTPI. Contingent screening: Where resources are limited, routine screening for preterm PE by maternal factors and MAP in all pregnancies and reserving measurements of PLGF and UTPI for a subgroup of the population (selected on the basis of the risk derived from screening by maternal factors and MAP) can be considered. Prophylactic measures: Following first‐trimester screening for preterm PE, women identified at high risk should receive aspirin prophylaxis commencing at 11–14+6 weeks of gestation at a dose of ~150 mg to be taken every night until 36 weeks of gestation, when delivery occurs, or when PE is diagnosed. Low‐dose aspirin should not be prescribed to all pregnant women. In women with low calcium intake (<800 mg/d), either calcium replacement (≤1 g elemental calcium/d) or calcium supplementation (1.5–2 g elemental calcium/d) may reduce the burden of both early‐ and late‐onset PE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Consensus
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Placenta Growth Factor / blood
  • Pre-Eclampsia / blood
  • Pre-Eclampsia / classification
  • Pre-Eclampsia / diagnosis*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Uterine Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Uterine Artery / physiology


  • Biomarkers
  • PGF protein, human
  • Placenta Growth Factor