All About Preeclampsia, a Complication of Pregnancy

April 19, 2019
Preeclampsia is a major pregnancy complication that may compromise the life of the mother and her unborn baby. Therefore, leading a healthy lifestyle, especially during pregnancy, and regular prenatal checkups are the best ways to prevent it.

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that can result from hypertension or kidney damage, among other things. It affects 5-8% of pregnant women and can be really dangerous for both mother and baby.

Preeclampsia usually manifests in the last trimester. However, it can also manifest during childbirth, the second half of pregnancy, or even during the first weeks after childbirth.

This condition can be mild or severe. Moreover, if it’s not treated properly nor in a timely manner, it can lead to more serious conditions, such as eclampsia or HELLP syndrome.

Why Does Preeclampsia Manifest?

A pregnant woman at a prenatal checkup.

Preeclampsia manifests due to reduced blood supply to the placenta. Then, the placenta doesn’t properly implant itself in the uterine wall and the arteries in that area don’t dilate as they should.

Chronic hypertension and diabetes may also decrease blood flow to the placenta. Some professionals believe that preeclampsia manifests at the beginning of pregnancy, even if the symptoms develop later on.

The Symptoms of Preeclampsia

Some women who are diagnosed with preeclampsia don’t develop characteristic symptoms. Similarly, not all women develop the same symptoms.

The main problem is that some of the symptoms of preeclampsia, such as nausea or swelling, may be interpreted as normal pregnancy symptoms.

This is why doctors should know how to recognize the warning signs of this complication in an effective and timely manner.

These are:

In the Case of Mild Preeclampsia

In the Case of Severe Preeclampsia

  • Headaches and blurred vision
  • Inability to tolerate bright light
  • Fatigue, nausea, and vomiting
  • Decreased urine output
  • Upper abdominal pain, usually on the right side
  • Bruising easily

It’s very important to remember that not all women with preeclampsia suffer from visible swelling or drastic weight gain. Plus, not all women who suffer from these symptoms have preeclampsia. The symptoms, as mentioned above, can be confusing.

Risk Factors for Preeclampsia

A fetus in the womb.

Obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are the major risk factors associated with preeclampsia.

Many other factors can also increase the risk of this condition. If this is the pregnant woman’s first pregnancy, she has previously suffered from hypertension or kidney disease, or has a family history of preeclampsia, her risk of suffering from it will be greater.

Likewise, women with multiple pregnancies, women who’ve previously had gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, or women who have a BMI of 30 or greater are also at a higher risk. Pregnant women under 20 or over 40 can also develop preeclampsia more easily.

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Prevention

Through regular prenatal checkups, your doctor will monitor and order:

  • Blood pressure
  • Urine levels
  • Blood tests

In addition, there are other ways to control the occurrence of this problem, such as:

Regardless of these tests, there is no surefire way to prevent this condition, because not all the factors that contribute to its manifestation can be controlled.

Therefore, health professionals often recommend eating a balanced diet and exercising, as well as getting regular medical checkups.

Discover: 6 Common Diseases during Pregnancy

Treatment

Doctor and patient talking about preeclampsia.

Periodic prenatal checkups allow the early detection of this complication and many others.

Treatment depends on the stage of pregnancy. If the condition manifests close to the delivery date and the baby is developed, the health professional will most likely induce birth as soon as possible.

If the preeclampsia is mild and the baby is not developed, the treatment will be based on increasing prenatal checkups. Similarly, your doctor will ask you to incorporate more protein into your diet.

It’s also important to consume less salt and drink plenty of water. Finally, getting plenty of rest is crucial. The patient should lie on her left side to shift the baby weight away from major blood vessels.

If a woman is suffering from severe preeclampsia, in addition to the above treatments, health professionals can prescribe drugs to control blood pressure.

Preeclampsia is a major pregnancy complication that may compromise the life of the mother and her unborn baby. Therefore, leading a healthy lifestyle, especially during pregnancy, and regular prenatal checkups are the best ways to prevent it.

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  • Sircar, M., Thadhani, R., & Karumanchi, S. A. (2015). Pathogenesis of preeclampsia. Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension. https://doi.org/10.1097/MNH.0000000000000105
  • Gupte, S., & Wagh, G. (2014). Preeclampsia-eclampsia. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13224-014-0502-y
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