Eclampsia is a life-threatening condition that can occur in pregnant women. It is characterized by high blood pressure and the appearance of seizures.
If left untreated, eclampsia can lead to serious health complications for both the mother and child. This guide will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for eclampsia. We hope that this information will help pregnant women be better prepared for this serious condition.
What is eclampsia?
Eclampsia is a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur during pregnancy. It is characterized by high blood pressure and seizures. If left untreated, eclampsia can lead to coma and even death.
Eclampsia is a severe complication of preeclampsia. When your preeclampsia advances and damages your brain, causing seizures, you have eclampsia.
What are the causes of eclampsia?
Eclampsia usually occurs in the second half of pregnancy but can occasionally occur in the postpartum period. It is most common in first-time pregnancies. Women who are obese, have diabetes, or have a history of hypertension (high blood pressure) are at increased risk for developing eclampsia.
The exact cause is unknown, but it’s thought to result from abnormal formation and function of the placenta.
Who is at risk for eclampsia?
You may be at risk for eclampsia, if you have or have had preeclampsia. Other risk factors for eclampsia during pregnancy include:
- A change in the level of certain proteins in the blood
- An imbalance of minerals in the body, such as calcium or magnesium
- High blood pressure during pregnancy
- A history of preeclampsia
- Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or lupus
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a baby that is large for gestational age
- Carrying twins or triplets (multiple pregnancy)
If you are pregnant and have any of the risk factors listed above, be sure to talk to your doctor about how to best manage your condition.
What are the signs and symptoms of eclampsia?
The signs and symptoms of eclampsia can vary from woman to woman. Some women may have no symptoms at all, while others may experience mild symptoms.
The most common symptom of eclampsia is high blood pressure. Other symptoms include:
- Severe headaches
- Severe agitation
- Changes in vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swelling of the hands, feet, and face
- Weight gain
- Decreased urine output
If you experience any of these symptoms during pregnancy, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.
How is eclampsia diagnosed?
Eclampsia is diagnosed by a combination of symptoms and laboratory tests. A physical examination will be done to look for the cause of seizures. Your blood pressure and breathing rate will be monitored frequently.
Your doctor will likely order a urine test to check for protein and a blood test to check your platelet count. You may also need an ultrasound to check the health of your liver and kidneys.
What is the treatment for eclampsia?
The goal of treatment for eclampsia is to prevent seizures and lower blood pressure. If you are diagnosed with eclampsia, you will likely be hospitalized so that you can be closely monitored. In addition, you will probably be given magnesium sulfate (anticonvulsant) to prevent seizures and blood pressure medications to lower your blood pressure.
If your blood pressure remains high or you continue to have seizures, you may need to deliver your baby early. In some cases, a cesarean section may be necessary.
After delivery, you will need to be monitored closely for 24-48 hours to make sure that your blood pressure stays low and that you do not have any more seizures.
What are the complications of eclampsia?
Eclampsia can lead to several serious complications, including:
- Preterm labor and delivery
- Placental abruption, which is when the placenta breaks away from the wall of the uterus
- HELLP syndrome, is a condition that can lead to liver damage, low platelet count, and hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells)
- Kidney failure
Eclampsia can also be fatal for both the mother and the baby.
How can eclampsia be prevented?
Unfortunately, there is no sure way to prevent eclampsia. However, there are some things you can do to lower your risk:
- Get regular prenatal care. This is the best way to detect eclampsia early.
- Maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy.
- Eat a healthy diet and take prenatal vitamins.
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy.
- Control conditions such as diabetes or hypertension.
If you are at high risk for eclampsia, your doctor may recommend additional tests or medications to help prevent the condition.
When should you contact a doctor?
Eclampsia can progress quickly and can be dangerous for both you and your baby. I4f you have any of the following symptoms, call your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room.
- Bright red vaginal bleeding
- A sudden and severe headache that does not go away
- Sudden change in vision
- Numbness or tingling in your face, hands, or feet
- Severe pain in your upper abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Decreased urine output or no urine output
- Excessive swelling in your face, hands, or feet
- Unusual weight gain
- A decrease in fetal movement