Preeclampsia occurs when you have high blood pressure and possibly protein in your urine during pregnancy or after delivery. Low clotting factors (platelets) in your blood may also be a sign of complications in your kidneys or liver.
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Preeclampsia is most likely to occur after the 20th week of pregnancy, although there is a small chance it can occur earlier or even after delivery. When preeclampsia progresses into more severe stages, it is known as eclampsia, a condition when high blood pressure increases high enough to cause you seizures.
Preeclampsia is quite a rare case; however, it can happen to anyone. Approximately 5 per cent of all pregnant women suffer from preeclampsia. With that being said, it’s important to know what is preeclampsia, its symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Preeclampsia is a very serious condition that is life-threatening for both mother and child. If left poorly managed or untreated, other health complications are likely to arise, including:
- Liver damage
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
- Bleeding problems due to low platelet levels
- Pulmonary oedema
- Placental abruption (when the placenta breaks away from the uterine wall)
- Health complications for the baby if they are born too early due to efforts in trying to resolve preeclampsia
It is worth noting that you may not notice the symptoms of preeclampsia until it is diagnosed. However, in some cases, you may experience noticeable symptoms of preeclampsia. Common ones include:
- Random and persistent headaches
- Severe swelling in your hands and face
- Sudden and significant weight gain
- Pain in the abdominal region, particularly in the upper area
- Changes in your vision
If you notice one or multiple of the above symptoms in your health, you should report it to your doctor at your next checkup. If they are severe and affecting your quality of life, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
During a physical exam, your doctor will try to identify preeclampsia by measuring your blood pressure levels or taking a urine sample to see protein, abnormal liver enzymes, and low platelet levels. An ultrasound is can also be sued to check your fluid levels and general health of the fetus.
To this day, doctors have not been able to identify an exact or single cause of preeclampsia as it can happen to anyone; however, studies have been conducted to develop a cause and effect relationship between preeclampsia and:
- Genetic factors
- Problems in blood vessels
- Autoimmune disorders
- Existing health complications
The risk factors that may increase your chances of preeclampsia include:
- Being pregnant with multiple fetuses
- Being pregnant for the first time
- Being above the age of 35
- Being in your early teens
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a family history of high blood pressure or preeclampsia
- Having a history of diabetes
- Having a history of kidney disorder
Nothing can definitively prevent this condition. Doctors may recommend that some women take baby aspirin after their first trimester to help prevent it.
Early and consistent prenatal care can help your doctor diagnose preeclampsia sooner and avoid complications. Having a diagnosis will allow your doctor to provide you with proper monitoring until your delivery date.
In terms of treatment, if your doctor has diagnosed you with preeclampsia, they will likely try to deliver the baby as soon as possible as it is the best and most effective way to resolve the condition.
If you are at week 37 or later, your doctor may induce labour as the baby should be developed enough and is not considered premature. If you have preeclampsia before the week 37 mark, your doctor will provide a form of treatment based on the assessment of you and your baby’s health.
Other treatments during pregnancy include intravenous (IV) medications or steroid injections. After the baby has been delivered, symptoms should subside, and the condition should be resolved.
However, there have been some cases of elevated blood pressure after delivery. In this instance, be sure to keep in close contact with your doctor and have it regularly checked up. Your doctor can also give you medication to help regulate your blood pressure levels.
When to See a Doctor
As the causes of preeclampsia are still unknown, the best thing you can do is maintain good health before, during, and after pregnancy. Following the simple steps of a healthy diet and lifestyle will give you and your baby the best chance at having a successful birth.
Getting regular checkups with your doctor is also important as they will be able to identify any irregularities in your health even though you may not be able to pick them up. However, if you do notice any abnormalities, be sure to bring them up with your doctor, especially if they are severe or abnormal.
Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.
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