Preeclampsia and Pregnancy
Preeclampsia and Pregnancy
Pregnancy puts extra stress on a woman’s body, and sometimes that extra work load causes health problems for both mother and her baby. As is the case with gestational diabetes, preeclampsia is a complication which usually only lasts through pregnancy and goes away after birth. Preeclampsia is quite common and affects 5-8% of pregnant women.
What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a serious disorder in which the mother has high blood pressure and can affect all the organs in her body. It usually develops after the 20th week of pregnancy or, rarely, after birth. There isn’t a way to prevent preeclampsia, although a healthy diet and exercise seem to help. If you have chronic hypertension (high blood pressure) or heart disease and are thinking about having a baby, talk with your doctor about managing your weight and condition before getting pregnant to avoid developing preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia can lead to severe health problems
Preeclampsia is just one reason why it’s so important to have all of the recommended prenatal check-ups; your blood pressure will be checked at each visit. If your blood pressure is consistently high or you experience symptoms such as blurred vision, nausea, headaches, swelling in the legs and hands, or pain in the abdomen, your doctor needs to know right away. Preeclampsia is a big deal. If not treated quickly, it can have severe ill effects on an expecting mother including:
- Damage to the kidneys, liver, brain, and heart
- Kidney or liver failure
- Blood clotting problems
- Postpartum hemorrhage – Heavy bleeding after the birth of your baby, which can lead to shock or even death
- Placental abruption – When the placenta – the organ that feeds and nourishes your baby -separates fully or partially from the uterine wall
- Eclampsia – A severe form of preeclampsia which causes seizures. This can damage your organs or lead to coma
- HELLP Syndrome – HELLP stands for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelet count. It affects how red blood cells are broken down, the ability of the blood to clot, and how the liver functions. HELLP Syndrome is treated with medication and blood transfusions.
The baby can also be affected by preeclampsia. Blood flow to the placenta could be restricted, which deprives baby of essential nutrients. This can result in low birth weight or premature birth. In fact, preeclampsia is the reason behind 15% of premature births in the United States.
Treatment for preeclampsia
The two most defining factors in determining treatment for pregnant women diagnosed with preeclampsia are gestational age and the severity of the condition. After 37 weeks, your doctor may recommend more frequent check-ups for extra monitoring, prescribe low-dose aspirin, and possibly inducing labor. If you are 34 weeks along or less and your condition or the condition of your baby is not stable, you will likely need to stay in the hospital for close monitoring. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help lower your blood pressure and prevent seizures. With severe preeclampsia or HELLP syndrome, it is recommended to have the baby early by labor induction or C-section.
Mild preeclampsia well-treated throughout the pregnancy often results in healthy, fully-developed babies born vaginally, especially if the preeclampsia developed after the 37th week of pregnancy. With quality prenatal care and close monitoring, you and your doctor can work together to manage preeclampsia.
We’d love to hear from you! Do you know someone who is/was affected by preeclampsia?