Preeclampsia in Pregnancy
Pregnancy is hard work, there is no doubt about it.
Complications can sometimes arise with pregnancy. Preeclampsia affects about one in twenty pregnancies. It’s important to understand what risk factors are for this condition, what symptoms to look out for, and what to do if you develop it.
What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is essentially high blood pressure or high blood pressure during pregnancy in someone who does not normally have HBP. This is often associated with damage to the liver and / or kidneys.
While pregnant people can have high blood pressure without developing preeclampsia, the condition is characterized by the presence of protein in the urine.
It typically develops after twenty weeks of pregnancy or through the third trimester. In rare cases, it can also develop postpartum. If so, it would be treated with drugs for high blood pressure and seizures. This can happen anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after the birth.
Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, a life-threatening condition characterized by seizures and possible loss of consciousness.
What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?
While some people may not notice any symptoms, there are some common ones that are associated with preeclampsia.
- Edema: Also known as fluid retention. This can cause swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, and face. While some edema is common in pregnancy, it can occur suddenly in preeclampsia.
- Sudden weight gain: As a result of fluid retention.
- A headache: This is often serious.
- Decreased urination: When you go to the bathroom, less urine comes out than normal.
- Shortness of breath.
- Pain: On the right side of the underside of the ribs, right around the liver.
- Liver dysfunction.
- Blurred vision: This can be accompanied by sensitivity to light.
Does it affect the baby?
Preeclampsia can potentially affect the baby.
The condition can restrict blood flow to the placenta, which can result in the baby not receiving enough nutrients and oxygen. This in turn can lead to stunted growth, breathing problems and premature births.
It can also increase the risk of placental rupture. This happens when the placenta separates from the uterine wall during pregnancy. A disruption of the placenta can prevent the baby from getting what it needs and can potentially lead to a miscarriage.
Risk factors for preeclampsia
There are certain people who may be more predisposed to preeclampsia than others.
- Pregnant women over forty and teenagers.
- Multiples: If someone has twins or more, the risk is higher.
- First pregnancy or a long pregnancy gap from the last.
- Previous pregnancies with preeclampsia.
- Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of preeclampsia.
- People with immune disorders such as thyroid disease, type I diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- A body mass index of 30 or more can increase the risk of preeclampsia.
- Genetic factors: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to preeclampsia.
It’s also important to note that in countries where systemic racism is prominent, like the United States, people of skin color, especially blacks and indigenous peoples, are at greater risk of developing conditions like preeclampsia. This is not due to a genetic predisposition, but rather to the interaction that racism has with the medical industry and how this affects mother and child outcomes.
How do you treat preeclampsia?
Unfortunately, while pregnant people with preeclampsia are closely monitored by their caregiver, there is no specific treatment outside of the birth of the child.
Some vendors may recommend introducing labor to avoid possible complications.
If delivery is impossible because it is too early for the baby, the pregnant person may be given certain drugs to control blood pressure and prevent seizures.
When it comes to monitoring someone with preeclampsia, providers track a patient’s blood pressure and urine protein levels, and can also use ultrasound and a non-stress test to monitor the baby.
Can You Prevent Preeclampsia?
Since the cause of preeclampsia is unknown, there is no way to prevent it completely. However, there are ways you can maintain your health during pregnancy and reduce your risk of preeclampsia.
- Limiting the amount of salt in your diet (this may not be recommended for everyone – check with your provider).
- Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over processed and fried foods.
- Taking any medication or supplements recommended by your doctor.
- Stay active with brisk walks, swimming, yoga, or whatever feels good to you during pregnancy.
- Get a solid amount of rest and raise your feet as the day progresses.
- Drink plenty of water and moisturizing beverages such as coconut water and herbal teas (if they are safe for pregnancy).
- Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol – which is recommended even during pregnancy.
When to contact your doctor:
Given that preeclampsia can potentially be life-threatening for both pregnant women and babies, it’s important to know warning signs when it is time to call your doctor.
- Blurred vision and severe headache
- Stomach pain.
- Very infrequent urination.
Last but not least – intuition. This is your body and your pregnancy. If your intuition prompts you to see your doctor, be sure to do so.