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Published

May 3, 2022

Updated

October 17, 2022

All About Preeclampsia

Learn everything you need to know about preeclampsia during pregnancy in this article.

Medically reviewed by

Preeclampsia is defined by high blood pressure and other side effects, like kidney and liver damage. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. Preeclampsia is the most common complication in pregnancy and affects about 1 in 25 pregnancies.

What happens when you have preeclampsia

Elevated blood pressure is a normal, controlled condition in pregnancy, but you'll have a higher than normal reading if your doctor checks your blood pressure. You could also have a buildup of protein in your urine. Preeclampsia is a condition that puts a tremendous amount of strain on the heart, kidneys, and other organs. The condition can also put a strain on the blood supply to the placenta, causing fluid to build up in the lungs. Urine protein testing provides an insight into the state of your kidneys.

Preeclampsia diagnosis and tests

There are many different ways to test for preeclampsia. Blood pressure checks, urine tests, and an ultrasound are the most common. Blood pressure tests will show elevated blood pressure. Preeclampsia usually presents with higher than normal blood pressures for pregnancy (140/90 or higher).

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia

The symptoms of preeclampsia usually do not appear until after 20 weeks of pregnancy, although sometimes a woman does not have any symptoms until she is about to give birth.Common symptoms of preeclampsia include: - Abdominal pain and swelling or bloating. - Back pain or upper right quadrant pain (that radiates to the shoulder and is associated with nausea and vomiting). - Changes in vision. - Decreased urine output. - Shortness of breath (with or without coughing). - Skin changes such as a purplish, blueish, or bluish color of the skin.

How is preeclampsia treated

The healthcare provider will advise you on what treatment can best help you manage preeclampsia. Your doctor will make this decision based on your condition and how far along you are in your pregnancy. The treatment of preeclampsia involves monitoring the woman's condition, close observation and restricting activity. One needs to get her to the hospital at the earliest possible moment because this condition can get worse quickly. The blood pressure will be lowered using medications called antihypertensives.

Your doctor may advise you to give birth early around 37 weeks via Cesarean section, it is sometimes safer to do this than prolong the risks associated with preeclampsia. During labor and delivery your blood pressure will be monitored and your provider may give medication to your baby to help with lung development.

The signs of preeclampsia are common throughout most pregnancies, but those who've developed preeclampsia earlier in pregnancy often require a higher degree of observation in an effort to keep the pregnancy as long as possible and give the baby a greater chance of growing and developing fully. Your obstetrician will be checking on you a lot with prenatal appointments. The doctor will also want to check your blood pressure at home.

During labor and following delivery, people with preeclampsia are often given magnesium intravenously to prevent the development of eclampsia.

How to reduce your risk of getting preeclampsia

A lot of women aware of preeclampsia want to know what they can do to reduce their risk. There are some steps that can be taken prior to and during pregnancy to lower the chance of developing preeclampsia. These steps can include: losing weight prior to getting pregnant if you are considered to be overweight or obese. Control your blood pressure and blood sugar, especially if diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes prior to pregnancy. Eat foods that are low in salt and avoid caffeine. You also want to maintain a regular sleep and exercise routine.

What are the most common complications of preeclampsia

Preeclampsia can be a serious condition which can be fatal for both the mother and her baby if left untreated. Before delivery, the most common complications are preterm birth, low birth weight or placental abruption. Preeclampsia can cause HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count). When preeclampsia damages the liver, it may affect the production of red blood cells, resulting in bleeding disorders. The most common symptoms of HELLP syndrome include high fever, back pain, headaches, shortness of breath and seizures. After you've delivered your baby, you may be at an increased risk for: heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and developing preeclampsia in future pregnancies. While the overall risk of death for preeclampsia is low, the prognosis can vary widely depending on how soon after birth the onset of preeclampsia occurred.

What is the difference between preeclampsia and eclampsia?

Eclampsia is the most severe form of preeclampsia, characterized by seizures or coma that develops in approximately 5% of all pregnancies.. This is what you hear about in the news when it comes to severe preeclampsia. However, most women with preeclampsia will not experience eclampsia.

What are the symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia often develops shortly after delivery, no matter how your blood pressure was during pregnancy. The postpartum period (after birth) lasts about 6 weeks. This is usually when women start to feel better. Unfortunately, the risk of preeclampsia doesn't end with delivery; it may actually get worse. Maternal serum uric acid (MSU) is a biomarker for preeclampsia. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you test your MSU levels during the postpartum period. Having a MSU test done during the postpartum period may help you to monitor your blood pressure levels and monitor whether your blood pressure is improving.

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