Pre-eclampsia is a condition seen in women after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It manifests as high blood pressure, presence of proteins in urine and swelling of feet and body i.e. edema. It usually disappears after birth. Not all high blood pressure reading qualifies as pre-eclampsia. Some women complain of high blood pressure during their second or third trimester. This is known as gestational hypertension but can lead to pre-eclampsia.
Pre-eclampsia can be life threatening for both the mother and the baby as it can lead a condition called eclampsia. The baby might get deprived of the necessary oxygen and blood while it may harm the mother’s brains, kidneys, and liver causing seizures.
The cause of pre-eclampsia is not known. Doctors believe that pre-eclampsia occurs when the placenta does not grow the typical system of blood vessels deep enough in the walls of the uterus which leads to poor blood flow around the placenta. Also, if the mother of the pregnant woman has had pre-eclampsia, the chances of her getting pre-eclampsia are higher. If the pregnant woman already suffers from hypertension or high blood pressure, the chances are even higher.
Mild pre-eclampsia generally does not produce any symptoms. Preeclampsia causes rapid weight gain with swellings of hands, feet and face. Sometimes it may also lead to severe headaches, difficulty in vision and breathing. It may lead to abdominal pain and discomfort, and increased urination.
Pre-eclampsia is usually diagnosed during an antenatal visit to the gynaecologist. A high blood pressure reading is often the first sign of the problem. A urine test to check for proteins will be ordered immediately by your doctor.
For mild pre-eclampsia, only regular monitoring is needed along with frequent antenatal visits and urine testing.
For moderate pre-eclampsia threatening to evolve into eclampsia, treatment is done in a hospital. It includes rest, medicines to lower the blood pressure, close monitoring of the mother’s vitals and fetal heart rate monitoring. Ultrasonography, regular blood and urine tests will be performed. In severe preeclampsia, the baby may be delivered right away even if the pregnancy is not nearing full term.
Pre-eclampsia compromises the blood flow to placenta resulting in small or premature babies.
The only cure for treating pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby. If the baby is 37 weeks or older, delivery can be done by inducing labor or by a Caesarean section. This prevents the pre-eclampsia from worsening to eclampsia.
Natural birth is possible too. If the baby is not near-full term, preeclampsia is usually treated with medications and rest until the baby is old enough to be delivered safely.
Symptoms of preeclampsia usually disappear within 1 to 6 weeks after giving birth.
Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above to take timely action if it is pre-eclampsia.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.
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