I’ve been pregnant 3 times, but I still wasn’t really sure what preeclampsia was. I’ve known friends who’ve had it during their pregnancies, but I always felt too silly to ask what it was, like I should already know. I decided to do a little research into this condition that affects 2-6% of healthy, first time moms according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Preeclampsia is a condition that normally presents itself after you’ve reached 20 weeks gestation. Preeclampsia is a combination of high blood pressure and increased protein in a pregnant woman’s urine. Mild preeclampsia also includes water retention leading to swelling, especially in the face and hands. More severe cases of preeclampsia can include symptoms such as: migraines, nausea/vomiting, pain on the right side of your stomach/abdomen, changes in your vision and rapid weight gain. These things can be troubling, especially when they develop early in pregnancy because the only cure for preeclampsia is the delivery of your baby.
Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may prescribe medications to help control your blood pressure or order bed rest until the baby is ready to be delivered. Women at a higher risk for developing preeclampsia include first time mothers, those who are obese, women with a history of high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, pregnant moms who are over 35 years of age or are carrying multiple babies. At this time there are no known ways to prevent developing preeclampsia.
The complications associated with preeclampsia include a decrease in blood flow to the placenta. According to the Mayo Clinic, “this can lead to slow growth, low birth weight, preterm birth and breathing difficulties for your baby.” You may also be at an increased risk of placental abruption, which is when the placenta separates from your uterus before delivery. Another possible complication of preeclampsia is the development of eclampsia, which is similar to preeclampsia but with the addition of seizures. The Mayo Clinic says, “left untreated, eclampsia can cause coma, brain damage and death for both you and your baby.”
The trouble with preeclampsia is many of the symptoms can also be ordinary pregnancy complaints, so one of the best things you can do is get early and regular prenatal care. Your doctor will monitor any changes in your protein levels and blood pressure to see if there is a cause for concern and of course any troubling symptoms you may be experiencing, should be reported to your doctor immediately.