Preeclampsia is a complex condition that affects pregnant moms. It causes a wide range of health issues and can significantly affect your pregnancy. It normally affects the way blood flows to the placenta, leading to the development of smaller babies or premature births. It exists in different forms and when left untreated, it can lead to infant and maternal death. Statistics indicate that this medical condition affects 5-8 percent of all pregnancies in the US. Besides that, preeclampsia is considered the number one cause of maternal death globally. If you are an expectant mom, here’s what you need to know.
What Causes Preeclampsia?
The exact cause of this medical condition isn’t known yet. However, some research reports indicate that common contributors include high body fat and poor diet. Besides those, some medical personnel associate preeclampsia with genetics or low level of blood flow to the uterus.
Who Is at Risk for Developing Preeclampsia?
This condition is normally experienced by first-time moms, women over the age of 40 years, and pregnant teens. Other women who are at risk include:
- Those with a past history of hypertension
- Having a close relative with preeclampsia e.g. your mother or sister.
- Women expecting multiple babies.
- Those with a history of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes and kidney disease.
- If the baby was conceived through In vitro fertilization
- Very short or very long intervals between pregnancies
- Race (black women are at higher risk than women of women of other races)
Common Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia?
What makes preeclampsia a scary condition is that the symptoms can go unnoticed because they are similar to what most pregnant women normally experience. The common signs and symptoms include:
One of the biggest red flags of preeclampsia is high blood pressure when you’re pregnant. A 140/90 blood pressure or higher should be a cause of concern.
Note: even if you verify that you don’t have preeclampsia but your blood pressure is higher than normal, you need to still seek medical advice.
Lower Back Pain
This is a common problem that most pregnant women suffer from. It comes from the pressure which the baby exerts on the abdomen. However, lower back pain in expectant women could also mean that they have liver problems which is one of the symptoms of preeclampsia.
Swellings during pregnancy, especially around the feet, are normal. But when fluid accumulates in certain body parts such as on the face, hands, or around the eyes while you are pregnant then it could be a sign that you have preeclampsia.
Protein in the urine is another strong indicator of this condition. Preeclampsia normally interferes with the functions of the kidney, especially when it comes to filtering and causes Albumin, a type of protein, to leak into the urine.
Nausea or Vomiting
Experiencing either of the two conditions abruptly especially when you are way past mid-pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia. Note that morning sickness usually occurs during the 1st trimester so a sudden occurrence of vomiting or nausea can be linked to preeclampsia.
Abrupt Weight Gain
If you gain 2 pounds or more within a week, then this could be an indicator that you have preeclampsia. An abrupt weight gain is likely a sign that you have gained “fluid” weight as a result of damaged blood vessels which leak water into the body tissues.
They can be dull or just severe headaches which have the characteristics of migraines. They don’t seem to go away and are a cause for concern.
The more severe and earlier preeclampsia occurs during pregnancy, the higher the risk of health complications for you and the baby. Some of the complications that may arise as a result of this condition include:
- Premature birth: severe preeclampsia can lead to premature birth. Additionally, the baby is bound to suffer from breathing problems.
- Restriction of fetal growth: this condition affects arterial blood flow to the placenta. The reduced blood supply means that the baby will receive low amounts of oxygen and nutrients thereby causing slow or restricted growth.
- HELLP Syndrome: preeclampsia destroys the red blood cells, increases the production of liver enzymes, and reduces platelet count. This is a life-threating condition not only for the baby but also you.
- Placental abruption: this condition increases the likelihood of the placenta separating from the uterus �inner wall before delivery time. Severe placental abruption causes heavy bleeding and may cause infant or maternal death.
- Organ damage: chronic symptoms increases the risk of damage to organs such as eyes, kidneys, lungs, liver, or the heart. Besides that, it can cause brain injury or stroke. But the type and level of injury heavily depend on the severity..
What Can I Do About Preeclampsia?
If you notice any of above-mentioned signs and symptoms, kindly seek immediate medical attention. Note that if diagnostic tests are done early enough, then it can be managed and the adverse side effects eliminated. At the moment, it can only be “cured” by delivery but this method is only effective if the fetus has matured. If preeclampsia happens very early in pregnancy then delivery won’t be the best option. However, the doctor can prescribe medications such as:
- Anticonvulsants like magnesium sulfate
- Medications for hypertension
- Low amounts of aspirin
- Calcium supplements
Preeclampsia is a serious complication and most expectant moms normally get frightened by its discovery. However, adequate support from family members and frequent prenatal visits alongside thorough medical attention can help to manage this condition. If you have not yet reached 37 weeks, then bed rests and prescribed medications can make you and your baby’s state stable.
This medical condition affects quite a big number of pregnant women. If you notice any changes that relate to the above-mentioned symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as you can. If you have preeclampsia, understand that you are not alone and it’s not your fault. Every pregnancy is different and complications may arise due to various reasons. Lean on your family for support, join a preeclampsia support group, and don’t forget that you have a whole community of women rallying behind you.