Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that can occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy that is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.
Preeclampsia is a condition that can develop during pregnancy. It causes a rise in blood pressure and other problems in the mother. In severe cases, it can lead to seizures, stroke, or even death.
If you are pregnant, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia so you can get treatment if necessary. In this blog post, we will discuss all aspects of preeclampsia including causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment.
What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that can occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. While high blood pressure during pregnancy does not necessarily indicate preeclampsia, it may be a sign of another problem.
Preeclampsia is a serious and life-threatening hypertensive disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period (eclampsia).
Preeclampsia and related disorders such as gestational hypertension, HELLP syndrome, and eclampsia are most often characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure, and even death of the mother and/or baby.
Preeclampsia can be mild, moderate, or severe. This condition usually develops in the third trimester affecting around one in 25 pregnancies. The disorder can develop into eclampsia in many people who have seizures, depending on the source. It can cause death. Prenatal appointments are a critical component of the management of pre-eclamptic symptoms like pregnancy apnea.
What is postpartum preeclampsia?
Postpartum preeclampsia is when you develop preeclampsia after your baby is born. It typically happens within two days of giving birth but can also develop several weeks later. The signs of postpartum preeclampsia are similar to preeclampsia.
Postpartum preeclampsia is easily treated with blood pressure medications that reduce and prevent seizures. Doctors will prescribe drugs that will not affect the ability to breastfeed.
What causes preeclampsia?
The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, but it is thought to be due to a problem with the placenta.
Experts believe it begins in the placenta, the organ that nourishes the fetus throughout pregnancy. Early in pregnancy, new blood vessels develop and evolve to efficiently send blood to the placenta.
In women with preeclampsia, these blood vessels don’t seem to develop or function properly. They’re narrower than normal blood vessels and react differently to hormonal signaling, which limits the amount of blood that can flow through them. Causes of this abnormal development may include damage to the blood vessels, insufficient blood flow to the uterus, immune system problems, and genetic factors.
Risk factors of preeclampsia
Preeclampsia occurs more commonly in first-time pregnancies and in women who are carrying twins or triplets. Women with a family history of preeclampsia are also at increased risk.
People with diabetes, chronic high blood pressure, autoimmune conditions, and kidney disease are more likely to develop preeclampsia. Preeclampsia rates are much higher among obese people.
How common is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a relatively common and serious blood pressure condition, affecting up to eight percent of all pregnancies. While it can occur in any pregnancy, it is most common in first-time pregnancies and women over the age of 35.
Preeclampsia can develop at any time during pregnancy, but it is most likely to occur after the 20th week. If you have preeclampsia, you will probably be diagnosed during a routine prenatal visit. Your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure and test your urine for protein.
How does chronic hypertension affect my baby?
Preeclampsia can prevent the placenta from getting enough blood. If the placenta doesn’t get enough blood, your baby gets less oxygen and food. This can result in low birth weight. Most women still can deliver a healthy baby if preeclampsia is detected early and treated with regular prenatal checkups.
What are the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia in pregnant women?
Preeclampsia can cause several symptoms in pregnant women, including
- High blood pressure
- Protein in your urine
- Swelling in the hands and feet
- Severe headaches
- Vision problems including temporary loss of vision, blurred vision, or light sensitivity
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sudden weight gain
- Decreased urine output
- Decreased levels of platelets in your blood (thrombocytopenia)
- Impaired liver function
- Shortness of breath, caused by fluid in your lungs
- Upper abdominal pain
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your healthcare provider right away.
How is preeclampsia diagnosed?
Many women with mild preeclampsia do not feel ill, and the condition is often first detected through blood pressure and urine testing in their doctor’s office.
For a doctor to diagnose preeclampsia, the pregnant person must have a diagnosis of high blood pressure and at least one additional associated sign, such as decreased blood platelets or impaired liver function.
Hypertension is the term for high blood pressure. A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is abnormal in pregnancy. The doctor may also order diagnostic tests:
- Blood tests: This checks kidney, liver function and platelet count, and whether the blood is clotting properly.
- Fetal ultrasound: Doctors will closely monitor the baby’s progress to make sure they are growing properly.
Preeclampsia is diagnosed through a combination of a physical exam and medical history. Your doctor will likely check your blood pressure and look for protein in your urine. If you have high blood pressure and protein in your urine, you may be diagnosed with preeclampsia.
If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, your doctor will likely recommend close monitoring of your blood pressure and urine protein levels. If you develop severe preeclampsia, you may need to be hospitalized for treatment.
How is preeclampsia treated?
Preeclampsia is treated by delivering the baby. This can be done either vaginally or via c-section, depending on how far along the pregnancy is and the condition of both mother and baby.
Medicine is given to help prevent seizures, lower your blood pressure, and prevent other problems. Steroid injections help your baby’s lungs develop faster. Other treatments include injections of magnesium to prevent eclampsia-related seizures Hydralazine or another blood pressure drug.
For severe preeclampsia, your doctor may need to deliver your baby right away, even if you’re not close to term. Afterward, symptoms of preeclampsia should go away within 1 to 6 weeks but could last longer.
What are the risks to both mother and baby if it’s left untreated?
If preeclampsia is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby, including fetal growth restriction, organ damage, stroke, and even death. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you think you may be developing preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia can also cause your placenta to suddenly separate from your uterus, which is called placental abruption. This can lead to stillbirth.
Preeclampsia can cause HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count). This happens when preeclampsia damages your liver and red blood cells and interferes with blood clotting. Other signs of HELLP syndrome are blurry vision, chest pain, headaches, and nosebleeds.
After you’ve delivered your baby, you may be at an increased risk for
- Kidney disease.
- Heart attack.
- Developing preeclampsia in future pregnancies.
While preeclampsia can be a very serious condition, most women who develop it go on to have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. With proper medical care, both mother and baby can have a positive outcome.
Can preeclampsia be prevented or reduced in risk by making lifestyle changes during pregnancy?
Preeclampsia is a serious condition that can lead to serious complications, including premature birth and low birth weight. There is no sure way to prevent preeclampsia, but there are some things you can do to lower your risk.
Getting regular prenatal care is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of preeclampsia. Prenatal care can help your healthcare provider catch the early signs of preeclampsia and take steps to treat it.
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are also important in reducing your risk of preeclampsia. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight before pregnancy can help lower your risk. And if you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar under control can also help reduce your risk.
If you have a history of preeclampsia or other risk factors, your healthcare provider may recommend that you take low-dose aspirin starting in early pregnancy. This has been shown to help lower the risk of preeclampsia in some women.
If you develop preeclampsia during pregnancy, it is important to get treatment right away. Preeclampsia can lead to serious complications for both you and your baby. With treatment, most women with preeclampsia go on to have healthy babies. But if it is not treated, preeclampsia can be life-threatening.
If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to lower your risk of preeclampsia.
What happens after delivery if a woman has had preeclampsia during her pregnancy – will she be at risk for developing it again in future pregnancies?
A person who had preeclampsia in their first pregnancy can have a much greater risk of having the same condition in subsequent pregnancies. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
If you have had preeclampsia, be sure to talk to your doctor about your risks before becoming pregnant again. They can help you develop a plan to reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia in future pregnancies.
If you are at high risk for developing preeclampsia, your doctor may recommend that you take certain medications during your pregnancy. These medications can help reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia.
There are also some lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of preeclampsia. These include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. Making these changes can help you reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia in future pregnancies.