Preeclampsia affects up to 300,000 women in the United States every year. It's characterized by high blood pressure in expectant women as well as protein in their urine, both of which can seriously harm their unborn babies and themselves.
With three kids ages twelve, four and two, Charis Johnson has her hands full, but she's not complaining.
"My kids, mean, my kids are my world. Without them, there is no me," Johnson said.
Charis had preeclampsia while pregnant with her last son Rhayden. With her blood pressure dangerously high, she had to deliver early. Rhayden weighed just 2 pounds and 12 ounces. According to Dr. Christopher Robinson, 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," Robinson said.
Robinson is studying the drug Digibind, which would allow mothers to buy time, so they 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," Robinson said.
Giving steroids for 48 hours before delivery lowers the baby's risk of stroke, lung disease and even death.
"It is giving us another window of opportunity to intervene on behalf of the baby prior to delivery to prevent catastrophic outcomes," Robinson said.
Early studies show Digibind improves blood pressure and leads to better outcomes for babies. Johnson doesn't yet know if she got the drug or not, but she believes something helped Rhayden.
"I think of him, he's my godsend child. I call him Hercules, because you see he is strong," Johnson said.
And with baby number four on the way, knowing the study is still ongoing gives Johnson 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 still under study; therefore, not yet approved for preeclampsia. Digibind is currently the only drug in the United States being studied for preeclampsia.