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
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?
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