Understanding Preeclampsia, A Pregnancy Condition

Understanding Preeclampsia, A Pregnancy Condition

Preeclampsia sometimes affects some pregnant women from their 20th week of pregnancy. Or it may strike soon after the baby is born. The most obvious signs of preeclampsia are high blood pressure and having protein in your urine. This condition can cause severe complications for both mother and baby. What is Preeclampsia?

What Is Preeclampsia? Defining the condition

what is preeclampsia

Formerly called toxemia, preeclampsia is a condition that pregnant women develop. It's marked by high blood pressure in women who haven't had high blood pressure before. 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, though it can happen earlier and may even develop just after delivery.

If undiagnosed, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, a serious condition that can put you and your baby at risk, and in rare cases, cause death. Women with preeclampsia who have seizures are considered to have eclampsia.

There's no way to cure preeclampsia except for delivery, and that's a scary prospect for moms-to-be. Even after you give birth, signs and symptoms of preeclampsia can last for 1 to 6 weeks. Sometimes even longer.

But you can help protect yourself by learning the symptoms of preeclampsia and by seeing your doctor for regular prenatal care. Catching preeclampsia early may lower the chances of long-term effects for both mom and baby,

What Causes Preeclampsia?

The exact causes of preeclampsia and eclampsia -- a result of a placenta that doesn't function properly -- are not known, although some researchers suspect poor nutrition or high body fat can be potential contributors. Insufficient blood flow to the uterus could be associated. Genetics plays a role, as well.

Who Is at Risk for Preeclampsia?

Understanding Preeclampsia, A Pregnancy Condition

Preeclampsia is most often seen in first-time pregnancies, in pregnant teens, and in women over 40. While it is defined as occurring in women have never had high blood pressure before, other risk factors include:

  • A history of high blood pressure prior to pregnancy
  • A history of preeclampsia
  • Having a mother or sister who had preeclampsia
  • A history of obesity
  • Carrying more than one baby
  • History of diabetes, kidney disease, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia?

Understanding Preeclampsia, A Pregnancy Condition

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 vomiting and nausea
  • Vision changes
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's why it's so important to see your doctor for regular blood pressure checks and urine tests.

When Do Symptoms Occur?

Preeclampsia can occur as early as 20 weeks into your pregnancy, but that is rare. If you are at risk, signs and symptoms usually occur after 34 weeks. In a small number of cases, the signs and symptoms may develop after birth, likely within 48 hours of delivery. It usually goes away on its own but can last up to 12 weeks after you give birth.

How Can Preeclampsia Affect My Baby and Me?

Understanding Preeclampsia, A Pregnancy Condition

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
  • Bleeding after you've given birth

Preeclampsia can also cause the placenta to suddenly separate from the uterus, which is called placental abruption. This can cause stillbirth.

What Is the Treatment for Preeclampsia and Eclampsia?

The only cure for preeclampsia and eclampsia is to deliver your baby. Your doctor will talk with you about when to deliver based on how far along 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 labor or perform a cesarean section. This is will keep preeclampsia from getting worse.

Web MD

Also read: How Do I Overcome The Fear Of Needles And Injections?

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