Preeclampsia is a condition that pregnant women develop. It is marked by high blood pressure in women who have previously not experienced high blood pressure. Preeclamptic women will have a high level of protein in their urine and often also have swelling in the feet, legs, and hands. This condition usually appears late in pregnancy, generally after 20 weeks of pregnancy, although it can occur earlier.
If undiagnosed, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, a serious condition that can put mother and baby at risk, and in rare cases, cause death. Women with preeclampsia who have seizures are considered to have eclampsia. There is no way to cure preeclampsia, and that can be a scary prospect for moms-to-be. But you can help protect yourself by learning the symptoms of preeclampsia and by seeing your doctor for regular prenatal care. When preeclampsia is caught early, it is easier to manage.
Preeclampsia can prevent the placenta from receiving enough blood, which can cause your baby to be born very small. It is also one of the leading causes of premature births, and the complications that can follow, including learning disabilities, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, hearing and vision problems.
In moms-to-be, preeclampsia can cause rare, but serious complications that include; Stroke, seizure, water in the lungs, heart failure, reversible blindness, bleeding from the liver, and bleeding after putting to birth. Preeclampsia can also cause the placenta to suddenly separate from the uterus, which is called placental abruption. This can cause stillbirth.
Preeclampsia is most often seen in first-time pregnancies, in pregnant teens, and in women over 40 years of age. While it is defined as occurring in women who have never had high blood pressure before, other risk factors include; a history of high blood pressure prior to pregnancy, having a mother or sister who had preeclampsia, carrying more than one baby, history of obesity, history of diabetes, kidney disease, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis
Risk factors associated with preeclampsia include:
First pregnancies: The chances of preeclampsia during a first pregnancy are considerably higher than the subsequent ones.
Pregnancy gap: If the second pregnancy occurs at least 10 years after the first, the second pregnancy has an increased risk of preeclampsia.
New paternity: Each pregnancy with a new partner raises the risk of preeclampsia, when compared with a second or third pregnancy with the same partner.
Family history: A woman whose mother or sister had preeclampsia has a higher risk of developing it herself.
Personal history of preeclampsia: A woman who had preeclampsia in her first pregnancy has a much greater risk of having the same condition in her subsequent pregnancies.
Age: Women over 40 and teenagers are more likely to develop preeclampsia compared with women of other ages.
Obesity: Preeclampsia rates are much higher among obese women.
Multiple pregnancies: If a woman is expecting two or more babies, the risk is higher.
In addition to swelling, protein in the urine, and high blood pressure, preeclampsia symptoms can include; rapid weight gain caused by a significant increase in bodily fluid, abdominal pain, severe headaches, change in reflexes, reduced urine or no urine output, dizziness, excessive nausea and vision change.
You should seek care right away if you have;
- Sudden and new swelling in your face, hands, and eyes (some feet and ankle swelling is normal during pregnancy.)
- Blood pressure greater than 140/90.
- Sudden weight gain over 1 or 2 days
- Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right side
- Severe headaches
- A decrease in urine
- Blurry vision, flashing lights, and floaters.
You can also have preeclampsia and not have any symptoms. That is why it is so important to see your doctor for regular blood pressure checks and urine tests when you are pregnant.
The only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver your baby. Your doctor will talk with you about when to deliver based on how developed your baby is, how well your baby is doing in your womb, and the severity of your preeclampsia. If your baby has developed enough, usually by 37 weeks or later, your doctor may want to induce labour or perform a cesarean section. This will keep preeclampsia from getting worse. If your baby is not close to term, you and your doctor may be able to treat preeclampsia until your baby has developed enough to be safely delivered. The closer the birth is to your due date, the better for your baby. If you have mild preeclampsia, also known as preeclampsia, with or without severe features, your doctor may prescribe bed rest, either at home or in the hospital. You will be asked to rest mostly on your left side. Resting helps bring the blood pressure down, which in turn increases the flow of blood to the placenta which benefits the baby. There would be careful observation with a fetal heart rate monitor and frequent ultrasounds, plus medicines to lower your blood pressure, and blood and urine tests.
For a diagnosis of preeclampsia to be made, both of the following test must come out positive:
Hypertension: The woman’s blood pressure is too high. A blood pressure reading above 140/90 millimeters of mercury is abnormal in pregnancy.
Protein in urine: Protein is detected in the urine. Urine samples are collected over 12 hours or more, and the amount of protein is assessed. This can give an indication of the severity of the condition.
The doctor may also order further diagnostic tests which may include;
Blood Test: To see how well the kidneys and the liver are functioning and whether the blood is clotting properly.
Fetal Ultrasound: The baby’s progress will be closely monitored to make sure they are growing properly.
Non-Stress Test: The doctor checks how the baby’s heartbeat reacts when it moves. If the heartbeat increases 15 beats or more a minute for at least 15 seconds twice every 20 minutes, it is an indication that everything is normal.
The symptoms of preeclampsia should go away within a few weeks of delivery.
By: Mercy Kukah