Randomized control trials show beneficial effects of heparin in high-risk pregnancies to prevent preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction. However, the lack of placental pathology data in these trials challenges the assumption that heparin is a placental anticoagulant. Recent data show that placental infarction is probably associated with abnormalities in development of the placenta, characterized by poor maternal perfusion and an abnormal villous trophoblast compartment in contact with maternal blood, than with maternal thrombophilia. At-risk pregnancies may therefore be predicted by noninvasive prenatal testing of placental function in mid-pregnancy. Heparin has diverse cellular functions that include direct actions on the trophoblast. Dissecting the non-anticoagulant actions of heparin may indicate novel and safer therapeutic targets to prevent the major placental complications of pregnancy.
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