Preeclampsia, also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension or toxemia is a disorder characterized by high blood pressure during pregnancy.
This condition often occurs during the second (from week 13 to the end of week 26) or third trimester (from week 27 until delivery) of pregnancy.
Scientists have discovered several potential factors that cause preeclampsia. However, they cannot accurately identify the main cause of the condition even until now.
Studies have shown that possible causes are associated to blood vessel issues, autoimmune problems, and poor genetics. But again results are still uncertain.
As with most health problems, early detection of the disorder can help you avoid further complications.
If you think that you’re at a high risk for preeclampsia, seek professional advice from your obstetrician right away.
Bear in mind that an untreated case of preeclampsia can likely lead to eclampsia, a more serious condition marked by episodes of convulsion and is usually followed by coma.
Another pregnancy complication that may also develop is HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzyme levels, and low platelet levels), a life-threatening disorder that can cause death to both mother and child.
Preeclampsia may affect all women in their pregnancy. However, as previously mentioned, some factors place you at a higher risk for developing the said condition.
These risk factors include:
- Age (either too old or too young)
- Chronic high blood pressure
- History of hypertension in pregnancy
- Diabetes mellitus
- Multiple gestation
- Collagen-vascular disorders
- Chronic renal parenchymal condition
- Excessive dietary intake of both sugar and fat
Once you’re diagnosed with preeclampsia, your doctor will closely monitor your pregnancy.
You will probably be advised to go through a series of tests that involves blood pressure monitoring, physical examinations, and blood tests.
In addition to that, your doctor will ask you to take a special urine test to detect proteinuria (the abnormal presence of protein in your urine).
Likewise, your baby’s health condition will be monitored through a non-stress test and fetal ultrasound.
Signs and Symptoms
Most pregnant women experience some common pregnancy symptoms such as weight gain and swelling of feet, hands, and face. These however can also be symptoms of preeclampsia. Other possible signs also include:
- Severe headaches
- Abdominal pain
- Vision changes
- Rapid weight gain due to fluid retention
- Change in reflexes
- Decreased urine or no urine output at all
- Severe nausea and vomiting
You can help reduce the symptoms of preeclampsia with some self-help measures such as:
- Taking complete bed rest (preferably lying on your left side)
- Increasing your water intake
- Visiting your obstetrician regularly to ensure that you and your baby remain in healthy condition
- Taking the medications your doctor has prescribed
If you notice that some symptoms become severe or you feel that new symptoms arise, tell your doctor as soon as possible.
In some instances, you will be admitted to a hospital to receive intravenous medications to control your blood pressure and prevent other complications from occurring.
In the case of severe preeclampsia, your doctor may decide to deliver your baby earlier than expected especially if your baby is found to be in distress.
Most doctors however will have to wait until you reach the 37th week of your pregnancy.
Possible Effects to the Baby
There is a high possibility that premature babies will experience heart, breathing, metabolism, and immune system problems.
In some cases, the mother may also experience serious complications such as premature detachment of the placenta from the uterus, liver rupture, and bleeding problems.
Your blood pressure readings usually return to normal six weeks after you deliver your baby.
Keep in mind that once you have developed preeclampsia, you are more inclined to develop the condition in your next pregnancies.