What Is Preeclampsia?

According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, preeclampsia is responsible for 5 to 8 percent of pregnancy complications. If not treated in time, the disorder can be life threatening, but what is preeclampsia? Basically, this is a hypertensive disease that normally develops in the second trimester of a pregnancy. Although the condition is serious, you can expect a positive outcome if you are suffering from this condition. Based on findings by the Preeclampsia Foundation, the majority of preeclampsia patients end up delivering healthy babies and recover fully from the condition. However, it is imperative that you seek prompt medical attention if you are suffering from this condition.

What Is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication whose main symptom is high blood pressure and damage to other organ systems in the body, especially the kidney. Since this happens even to people with normal blood pressure, a slight rise in blood pressure may be an indicator of the condition. In most cases, the condition sets in the 20th week of the pregnancy. If detected earlier than this, it is very challenging for you and the doctor to manage it until the child is born. This is mainly because the real remedy for this condition is delivering the baby. The condition is very dangerous and even fatal for both the mother and the child if not treated. While the baby needs some time to mature fully, you should never put yourself or the baby at risk of complications.

What Are the Symptoms of Preeclampsia?

Signs of preeclampsia are not easy to detect. The condition can develop without any symptoms. However, a rise in blood pressure, either gradual or sudden, may be an indicator of the condition. This is why your blood pressure is closely monitored during prenatal care; a blood pressure of 140/90mm Hg or higher, detected twice within and interval of more than four hours can be an indicator of preeclampsia. Othersymptoms that may be used to diagnose this condition include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Reduced urine output
  • Impaired functioning of the liver
  • Reduction in the number of platelets
  • Pain in the upper abdomen – normally under the right ribs
  • Shortness of breath – this is caused by the presence of fluid in the lungs
  • Signs of kidney problems and Proteinuria – presence of excess protein in your urine
  • Changes in vision such as blurred vision, temporary loss of vision and light sensitivity
  • Swelling and sudden weight gain - usually in the hands and the face. While these two may be signs of preeclampsia, they can also occur in any normal pregnancy

When to See a Doctor

Suffering from this condition requires urgent treatment. Any of the following symptoms are a reason why you should seek medical attention:

  • Severe headaches
  • Decreased urine output
  • Increased blood pressure, above 140/90 mm Hg
  • New and sudden swelling in the hands, eyes and face
  •  A sudden weight gain within a period of 1 to 2 days
  • Pain in the upper abdomen, mostly under the right ribs
  • Impaired vision, including flashing lights, floaters and blurry vision

In other cases, the condition may develop without showing any signs of preeclampsia. As such, it is very important to regularly visit a doctor for urine and blood pressure tests while pregnant.

What Causes Preeclampsia?

While doctors have not yet settled on a single cause of this condition, they are exploring various possibilities, including:

  • Diet
  • Genetic factors
  • Blood vessels complications
  • Autoimmune disorders

Additionally, other risk factors may predispose mothers to this condition. Such factors include:

  • Obesity
  • First pregnancy
  • History of kidney problems
  • Getting pregnant at an early age
  • Multiple fetuses in the uterus
  • Advanced maternal age, above 35 years
  • Diabetes and hypertension history

Currently, the condition cannot be prevented. However, early and regular prenatal care can lead to early diagnosis and appropriate monitoring until you deliver your baby.

What Effects Will It Have?

Basically, the earlier the condition sets in and the more severe it is, the more risky it is for you and the unborn child. Most of the women who contract preeclampsia suffer from mild conditions and deliver safely with appropriate care. Severe cases of this condition lead to the constriction of blood vessels, hence high blood pressure. The reduced blood flow that follows can affect various organs in the body, including kidneys, brain and the liver. Additionally, reduced blood flow to the uterus has several implications for the baby, such as little amniotic fluid, placental abruption and poor growth. Since adverse cases of this condition can be threatening, early delivery is advised for the safety of both the mother and the unborn baby. This increased pressure in the blood vessels may also cause fluids to leak from the capillaries into the neighboring tissues resulting in swelling. Again, the increased pressure can also cause protein to spill from the bloodstream into the urine.

How to Know If You Have Preeclampsia

What is Preeclampsia? This is a question that has been disturbing many expectant mothers. Rather than wondering what preeclampsia is,you should focus on how to know whether you have it. There are many tests that are carried out during a prenatal checkup, including urine levels and blood pressure, to ascertain whether you are suffering from this condition. Other tests that a doctor may conduct to confirm the condition include: blood-clotting and kidney functions, ultrasound scan to determine the growth of the fetus as well as a Doppler scan to determine the efficiency of blood flow to the placenta.

How Is Preeclampsia Treated?

In addition to wondering what the signs of preeclampsia are, patients are also wondering how the condition may be treated. It is impossible to cure this condition until the baby is born. However, the following remedies may be used to manage the condition until the baby is delivered:

1. Apply Some Medications

An array of medications may be used in managing this condition. Some of the commonly used medications include Corticosteroids, Antihypertensive and Anticonvulsive. Antihypertensive drugs are administered to lower the blood pressure; Corticosteroids are used to improve liver and platelet functioning in the patients while Anticonvulsive medications are used to prevent a first seizure.

2. Get More Rest

If the condition is mild and is at an early stage of the pregnancy, the doctor will advise the patient to have bed rest and move only when necessary. This will help in bringing the blood pressure down and increase blood flow to the uterus. Additionally, the baby is monitored closely. In severe cases of the condition, the mother may be hospitalized for close monitoring.

3. Induce Labor

If the condition is detected towards the end of the pregnancy, doctors will induce early delivery. In other severe cases of preeclampsia, doctors perform a C-section or induce early delivery to save the mother and the child. During such an induced birth, magnesium sulfate may be given to the mother to prevent seizures and improve uterine blood flow. After delivery, symptoms of the condition will disappear soon afterwards.

Can Preeclampsia Be Prevented?

While it may be impossible to prevent this condition, there are some things that may be done to prevent high blood pressure. For instance, you should adhere to your doctor’s instructions regarding exercise and diet. Other things that may be done include:

  • Taking 6-8 glasses of water every day
  • Using minimal salt in your food
  • Avoid junk and fried foods
  • Have enough rest
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid alcohol drinking
  • Keep your feet in an elevated position a couple of times in a day
  • Avoid taking beverages that have caffeine
  • Take subscription drugs as well as additional supplements
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