What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is when you have high blood pressure and possibly protein in your urine during pregnancy or after giving birth. You may also have clotting factors (platelets) in your blood or indicators of kidney or liver problems.
Preeclampsia usually happens after the 20th week of pregnancy. However, in some cases it occurs earlier or after birth.
Eclampsia is a serious progression of preeclampsia. In this case, high blood pressure causes seizures. Like preeclampsia, eclampsia occurs during pregnancy or, rarely, after delivery.
About all pregnant women
What is the cause of preeclampsia?
Doctors have yet to identify a single cause of preeclampsia, but some potential causes are being investigated. These include:
- hereditary factors
- blood vessel problems
- autoimmune diseases
There are also risk factors that can increase your chances of developing preeclampsia. These include:
- conceiving multiple fetuses
- be over 35 years old
- being in your early teens
- getting pregnant for the first time
- be obese
- have a history of high blood pressure
- with a history of diabetes
- have a history of kidney disease
Nothing can definitively prevent this situation. Doctors may recommend that some women take baby aspirin after the first trimester.
Early and consistent prenatal care can help your doctor diagnose preeclampsia earlier and avoid complications. Making the diagnosis will allow your doctor to monitor you appropriately until your due date.
It is important to remember that you may not see the signs of preeclampsia. If you develop symptoms, common ones include:
- constant headache
- abnormal swelling in your hands and face
- sudden weight gain
- changes in your vision
- pain in the right upper abdomen
During a physical exam, your doctor may find that your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher. Urine and blood tests can also show protein in your urine, abnormal liver enzymes, and low platelet levels.
At this point, your doctor may perform a nonstress test to monitor the fetus. A nonstress test is a simple exam that measures how the fetal heart rate changes as the fetus moves. An ultrasound may also be done to check your fluid levels and the health of the fetus.
What is preeclampsia treatment?
The recommended treatment for preeclampsia in pregnancy is delivery of the baby. In most cases, this prevents the progression of the disease.
If you’re 37 weeks or newer, your doctor may suggest labor. At this point, the baby is sufficiently developed and not considered premature.
If you have preeclampsia before 37 weeks, your doctor will consider the health of both you and your baby when deciding on your timing of delivery. This depends on many factors, including your baby’s gestational age, whether labor has begun and how severe the disease has become.
Delivery of the baby and placenta should resolve the situation.
Other treatments during pregnancy
In some cases, you may be given medications to help lower your blood pressure. You may also be given medications to prevent seizures, a possible complication of preeclampsia.
Your doctor may want to admit you to the hospital for further monitoring. You may be given intravenous (IV) medications to lower your blood pressure or steroid injections to help your baby’s lungs develop faster.
Treatment of preeclampsia is guided by whether the disease is mild or severe. Symptoms of severe preeclampsia include:
- indicates changes in fetal heart rate
- stomach ache
- impaired kidney or liver function
- fluid in the lungs
You should see your doctor if you notice any abnormal signs or symptoms during your pregnancy. Your main concern should be your health and the health of your baby.
After the baby is born, the symptoms of preeclampsia should improve. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, most women will have normal blood pressure values within 48 hours of giving birth.
However, in some cases, blood pressure may rise again a few days after delivery. This is why close follow-up care with your doctor and regular blood pressure checks are important, even after your baby is born.
Although rare, preeclampsia can occur in the postpartum period following a normal pregnancy. Therefore, even after an uncomplicated pregnancy, if you have recently had a baby, you should consult your doctor and pay attention to the above-mentioned symptoms.
What are the complications of preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a very serious condition. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening for both mother and child. Other complications may include:
- bleeding problems due to low platelet level
- placental abruption (breaking of the placenta from the uterine wall)
- damage to the liver
- kidney failure
- pulmonary edema
Complications for the baby can also occur if they are born prematurely, due to efforts to resolve preeclampsia.
During pregnancy, it’s important to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. This includes eating a healthy diet, taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid, and having regular prenatal care checkups.
But even with proper care, unpreventable conditions such as preeclampsia can sometimes occur during pregnancy or after childbirth. This can be dangerous for both you and your baby.
Talk to your doctor about things you can do to reduce your risk of preeclampsia and the warning signs. If necessary, they can refer you to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist for additional care.
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