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Background and aimsInvestigations in pregnancy should be interpreted using pregnancy-specific reference intervals (RIs). However, because of the progressive nature of pregnancy, even pregnancy-specific RIs may not be equally representative at different gestations. We proposed that gestational age-specific RIs may increase diagnostic accuracy over those with fixed limits.Materials and methodsThe trajectory of platelets was mapped in 32,778 pregnant women, using 116,798 results. Then we evaluated the accuracy with which a low measurement in early pregnancy (<3rd centile) predicted thrombocytopaenia at term, compared to the existing limit (<150 × 109/L).ResultsPlatelets fell by 14.8% between 8 and 40 weeks. Platelets below the 3rd centile before 20 weeks predicted thrombocytopaenia at term (<100 × 109/L) with a significantly greater degree of accuracy than a fixed limit (AUC 0.86 vs. 0.76, p = 0.004).ConclusionPregnancy-specific RIs can be defined using routinely collected hospital data, and the abundance of such freely available data enables a detailed investigation of temporal changes throughout gestation. Individualised RIs offer improved accuracy profiles, over and above those already derived specifically from pregnant populations. Clinicians should consider how this may be used to improve diagnostic accuracy for biomarkers used in current clinical practice, and those yet to be defined.

Original publication




Journal article


Clinica chimica acta; international journal of clinical chemistry

Publication Date





56 - 60


Women's Centre, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK. Electronic address: