Preeclampsia is the most common hypertensive pregnancy disorder (HDP). It affects about 5% of pregnancies in high-income countries leading to complications such as preterm birth and heart diseases.

If you are pregnant, here's what you need to know about this condition.

What is Preeclampsia?

Most pregnant women experience preeclampsia at the start of their 2nd trimester (after 20 weeks). And it's diagnosed when a woman records a systolic blood pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher and a diastolic blood pressure of 110 mm Hg or higher twice every 4 hours.

Not only does a pregnant woman develop the condition during pregnancy, but there is also the possibility of postpartum preeclampsia (after the delivery of her baby).

What are the symptoms of Preeclampsia?

The most common symptoms are high blood pressure, proteinuria, and kidney or other organ damage. And these are usually found out during checkups at prenatal appointments.

Other symptoms are:

  • Chronic headaches
  • More enzymes in the liver (a sign of liver problems)
  • Shortness of breath because there is fluid in the lungs
  • Impaired vision (which can be blurred, light sensitivity or loss of sight)
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Pain (usually on the right side of the upper belly and under the ribs)
  • Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count)

What causes Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a complicated condition caused by multiple factors. For one, the placenta (the organ responsible for feeding the fetus) is the cause. When a woman gets pregnant, new blood vessels form and change to provide the placenta with oxygen and nutrients. However, this is not the case with women who have preeclampsia - the blood vessels do not work to have blood circulating well in the placenta. And when this occurs, it leads to complications with a pregnant woman's blood pressure.


Who is at risk?

Risk factors may either be high or moderate. The conditions associated with each are:

High Risk Factors:

  • Getting pregnant by in vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Kidney disease
  • If a woman has had type 1 or type 2 diabetes before getting pregnant
  • Hypertension
  • Carrying more than one baby (which is typical of IVF)
  • Autoimmune disorders (disorders where the body's immune system fights healthy cells) like lupus or celiac disease
  • If a woman has had preeclampsia before

Moderate Risk Factors:

  • Obesity
  • First time getting pregnant
  • Hereditary (close relations having a similar condition during pregnancy)
  • Getting pregnant at age 35 or older
  • Having another pregnancy after 10 years
  • Issues with a previous pregnancy

Other Risk Factors:

  • Race (preeclampsia is more common in Blacks than Caucasians)
  • Level of income (more low-income countries record more cases than high-income countries)

What are the complications of having Preeclampsia?

  • Preterm birth: An unplanned birth before 37 weeks, although a doctor may recommend a planned preterm birth to treat preeclampsia.
  • Placental abruption: A pregnant woman's chances of having placental abruption are higher if a pregnant woman has preeclampsia.
  • HELLP syndrome: HELLP is an acronym for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count. It can be fatal to the health of both mother and baby and usually causes lifelong health issues for a pregnant woman. Some symptoms of HELLP are nausea, vomiting, headaches, and upper right belly pain.
  • Eclampsia: When coma and seizures set in, preeclampsia has led to another serious condition called eclampsia. Some symptoms of eclampsia are acute headaches, impaired vision and disorientation.
  • Affects the growth of the fetus: Preeclampsia affects the arteries that supply blood (carrying oxygen and nutrients) to the placenta, which nourishes the baby.
  • Heart disease: Preeclampsia can lead to heart and blood vessel disease later in life, and a pregnant woman is at greater risk if she's had the condition more than once or had a preterm birth.
  • Kidney or organ damage: The condition also causes damage to the kidneys and other organs such as the lungs, liver, heart, and eyes. 

    How Preeclampsia be prevented?

     A doctor will prescribe a low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams daily) to prevent preeclampsia after 12 weeks of pregnancy when a woman has one high-risk factor and more than one moderate risk factor.

    Also, lifestyle changes like eating healthy and exercising can go a long way to keep preeclampsia at bay.


    Source: Mayo Clinic


    Disclaimer: The information shared by this post is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be professional medical advice nor a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician concerning anything you have read here. 


    By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team

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