Preeclampsia: The Dangers

When a pregnant woman develops preeclampsia, the situation becomes especially serious. Both mother and child can be affected.

Preeclampsia Definedmeasurement of the blood pressure

Preeclampsia is when you have high blood pressure plus protein in your urine.
Also called toxemia of pregnancy, developing high blood pressure or hypertension during pregnancy is very dangerous to both mother and child.

Types and Symptoms of Preeclampsia

There are two types of preeclampsia:

Mild preeclampsia: The only symptoms are high blood pressure levels and protein in the urine.
Severe preeclampsia: Besides the above symptoms, patients could have headaches, nausea, vomiting, and seizures.
Other symptoms of preeclampsia are sensitivity to light and abdominal pain.

These can all be signs of other conditions in pregnancy, so it is important to contact ObGyne Consultants if you experience them. Your doctor will also check for preeclampsia during prenatal care visits by testing your blood pressure and analyzing your urine.

Statistics and Causes of Preeclampsia

There are certain factors that increase your risk for preeclampsia during pregnancy:

Being over 40 years old
Being younger than 20 years old
Carrying twins or other multiples
Having high blood pressure when not pregnant
Having a previous diagnosis of preeclampsia
Being obese prior to conception
Having other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis
Risks of Preeclampsia

If not addressed, preeclampsia can:

Damage the placenta, which feeds and supports the baby
Damage the mother’s kidneys, liver, and brain
Lead to seizures — this dangerous stage is called eclampsia
Cause a low birth weight
Cause a pre-term birth
Preeclampsia can even be fatal for both mom and baby in some cases.

Guarding Against Preeclampsia

There is no sure way to prevent preeclampsia. As always, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet, and getting regular prenatal care will help reduce the risk of complications and ensure that conditions like preeclampsia are caught early enough to be managed.

If you have high blood pressure before becoming pregnant, make sure that it is under control by exercising, cutting back on salt, and taking your prescribed medications.

Managing Preeclampsia

If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia before your baby can be delivered safely, you will be closely monitored at home or possibly in the hospital. You may be given medication to control your blood pressure and prevent seizure. Your doctor may decide that an early delivery is necessary, in which case medication may be given to try to help your baby’s lungs mature before delivery.

Symptoms of preeclampsia most often go away within six weeks of delivery. However, some women will still have high blood pressure at their six-week check-up and will be diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure).

Even though it is hard to predict who will develop preeclampsia, becoming educated about the symptoms and sticking to your scheduled prenatal care appointments will give you the very best chance for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

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