A condition that can develop during pregnancy, preeclampsia is most often initially diagnosed through elevated blood pressure and can lead to kidney and liver damage. It typically develops after the 20th week, and before developing, women often have normal blood pressure. Preeclampsia is a serious health condition for both mother and baby and requires medical treatment.
The most effective way to treat preeclampsia is by delivering your baby. If the preeclampsia develops before the baby is old enough to be delivered, you and your doctor will have to balance the need to guard your health, while waiting for the baby to mature enough to be viable.
The high blood pressure, which is an indicator of preeclampsia, may creep up gradually or develop suddenly. Blood pressure that is 140/90 or higher is a cause for concern. Other signs of preeclampsia include severe headaches, excess protein in the urine, decrease in urination, changes to vision, pain in the upper abdominal region, and shortness of breath. Preeclampsia can also lower the levels of platelets in your blood, as well as cause impaired liver function.
Sudden weight gain, particularly in your hands and face, are often a sign of edema and occur with preeclampsia. It can be difficult to distinguish between normal weight gain and swelling from pregnancy and preeclampsia, so this is not used as a diagnosis for the condition.
It isn’t exactly understood why some women develop preeclampsia during pregnancy. It is believed that problems in the placenta cause the inadequate blood supply to the placenta. The blood vessels are narrower and behave differently than healthy blood vessels.
Some risk factors increase the odds of developing preeclampsia. They include a personal or family history of the condition and having chronic hypertension. Being over 40, being clinically obese, carrying multiple pregnancies, and having existing health conditions, such as kidney disease, type 1 or 2 diabetes, or a tendency to develop blood clots, all increase the risk of this condition.
The earlier you develop preeclampsia, the more dangerous it is to both you and your child. This condition can lead to slow growth for your fetus, low birth weight, and preterm birth. Placental abruptions are an increased risk in mothers with preeclampsia. This can lead to heavy bleeding and is a medical emergency. Preeclampsia can also lead to organ damage, including damage to the liver, heart, kidneys, and lungs. It also increases your risk of a stroke.
If you have risk factors for preeclampsia, your doctor may recommend a daily low-dose of aspirin. If preeclampsia develops, the most effective treatment is to deliver your baby. If you are too early to deliver, your doctor will work with you to treat your symptoms. Options include taking medications to lower your blood pressure, and corticosteroids to help your baby’s lungs mature so he/she will be stronger for premature birth, and, if your anticonvulsant medication is severe, an anticonvulsant medication to prevent seizures. For severe cases of preeclampsia, your doctor may want you hospitalized, to better monitor you and your baby.