Preeclampsia refers to the condition of having high levels of blood pressure as well as excess protein in the urine during pregnancy. Even the slightest rise in blood pressure can signal this condition. Because it's serious, is fatal, and can cause complications to both the mother and baby, it's imperative that it's given the right attention.
Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia
This condition can develop gradually but most of the time, it starts abruptly 20 weeks into the pregnancy. It can be mild or severe, depending on numerous risk factors.
- The most obvious sign of preeclampsia is high blood pressure of 140/90 millimeters of mercury(mm Hg) or higher. To be diagnosed, it has to happen in two occasions at least six hours but no longer than seven days apart.
- Another common sign is excess protein in the urine, otherwise known as proteinuria.
- Other signs and symptoms include severe headaches, blurred vision, temporary loss of vision, light sensitivity, upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, less frequent urination, sudden weight gain, and swelling or edema. Swelling usually happens in the face and hands. But take note that swelling can also occur in normal pregnancies.
Causes of Preeclampsia
Before, preeclampsia was called toxemia because it was believed that it was caused by a toxin present in the bloodstream of a pregnant woman. The belief was discarded, but up to now it is not yet determined what the exact and direct cause of preeclampsia is.
Medical experts believe that it can possibly be caused by
- insufficient flow of blood to the uterus
- damage of blood vessels
- weak or defective immune system
- poor diet
- high blood pressure disorder during pregnancy
There are other high blood pressures aside from preeclampsia that can also occur during pregnancy. These include
- gestational hypertension (high blood pressure without excess protein in the urine)
- chronic hypertension (appears before 20 weeks of pregnancy)
- preeclampsia superimposed on chronic hypertension (common in women who have chronic high blood pressure before pregnancy)
Risk Factors of Preeclampsia
Risk factors of preeclampsia include
- family history
- first pregnancy
- new paternity
- multiple pregnancies
- gestational diabetes
- prolonged interval between pregnancies
New paternity listed above is a risk factor in the sense that every time you get pregnant with a new partner, risk of this condition increases.
As for the age factor, it is more common among women younger than 20 and older than 40.
Other medical conditions can also be risk factors. These include
- kidney disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
Treatments and Drugs for Preeclampsia
Delivery is the only cure for this condition. However, it's not always possible especially if you're still in the early stage of pregnancy. Until the baby is born, you're at increased risk of severe bleeding, stroke, placental abruption, and seizures.
Medications may be recommended to alleviate the problem. Antihypertensives, which are used for lowering blood pressure until delivery may be prescribed. Other medications that may be suggested by your doctor include corticosteroids and anticonvulsive medications. Your doctor may also advice bed rest, which can effectively lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the placenta.