If you're pregnant, you may have heard of preeclampsia from your family, friends, or doctors. In fact, preeclampsia is the most common complication during pregnancy affecting roughly one in twenty pregnant women. But what causes it and what should you watch for during your pregnancy? We found out what signs to look for and how this condition can affect your pregnancy.
Often preeclampsia is preceded by high blood pressure and indicated damage to organs like the kidneys and liver. It presents itself frequently after 20 weeks and can cause serious complications if left untreated.
1. Risk Factors
There are some factors that can be strong indicators for preeclampsia. If you've experienced preeclampsia in prior pregnancies, your risk is high and you should consult your doctor.
Other risk factors:
- Your first pregnancy
- A multifetal pregnancy (twins)
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Advanced maternal age (if you're over 35 years old)
- Blood clotting disorders
- Family history of preeclampsia
2. Signs of Preeclampsia
After determining your risk levels for the condition, your doctor can ensure you're tested during every pregnancy check-up. The signs associated with preeclampsia are high blood pressure, higher than 140 over 90, and urine containing high levels of proteins. If you have the high blood pressure but not the proteins in your urine, it's a symptom of gestational hypertension, not preeclampsia.
If your doctor finds your blood pressure is elevated during a checkup, they'll likely give you a urine test. If they don't but you are still having symptoms, be sure to explain that to them clearly.
Preeclampsia is diagnosed by having your blood pressure monitored four hours apart and having it be higher than 140 over 90 both times.
Other symptoms of preeclampsia can resemble migraine symptoms with an added bonus of abdominal pain. Commonly this presents as severe headaches, blurry vision or spots in your vision, and upper right abdominal pain centered around the liver.
If you're experiencing some, or all, of these symptoms, tell your doctor immediately. Without treatment, your preeclampsia can turn into eclampsia and then it's an emergency that may require the early delivery of your baby to save both your lives.
4. Early Intervention
In order to give you and your baby the best treatment possible, it's important that preeclampsia is diagnosed early. This means regular check-ups and appropriate testing. If diagnosed, your doctor can help monitor and treat the condition to keep you and little one safe, preventing more serious complications from being introduced.
Treatment for preeclampsia is typically pregnancy-safe blood pressure medication that may be combined with meditation or other relaxation techniques. The symptoms associated with preeclampsia are treated during this time, as well.
Preeclampsia with severe features is marked by your blood pressure being higher than 160 over 110, a platelet count of less than 100,000, an abnormal liver function test, severe pain, impaired liver and kidney function, pulmonary edema (water in the lungs), severe headaches, and blurred or spotty vision. And if it's determined that you have preeclampsia with severe features it will likely mean that your baby will have to be delivered early.
5. Early Delivery
Preeclampsia is often accompanied by early delivery, whether induced or naturally. If your preeclampsia is not stabilized by 37 weeks, this may mean that your baby will have to be delivered even more prematurely to ensure the safety of both mother and baby.
Eclampsia occurs when you begin to have seizures along with your other symptoms and at that point the doctors have no other choice but to deliver your baby. If you're not yet at 37 weeks, a consultation of doctors will be held, and they'll determine the proper course of action through consensus.
Babies delivered prematurely these days have excellent survival rates but it's always preferable to give them as long as possible in the warmth and comfort of their mother's womb to grow and mature.
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