Preeclampsia – What in the world is it?

Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition that can lead to preterm delivery and death.

It happens in the second or third trimester and is a blood pressure disorder. Its cause is unknown, but some women are at an increased risk. Your provider will be checking your blood pressure at each visit to monitor you for any possible signs of preeclampsia.

How do you know if you are at risk?

  • If this is your first pregnancy
  • You had it in a previous pregnancy
  • You have another condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Are you older than 35?
  • If you are carrying multiples
  • Being overweight

It’s not always possible to avoid preeclampsia, but if you have one of the known risk factors, you can take some precautions.

Identify and address any risk factors, preferably before you become pregnant. For example, get high blood pressure under control; lose weight if necessary; and if you have diabetes, make sure the condition is well controlled before getting pregnant. Your doctor or midwife can work on a plan to help you if you have already become pregnant. A healthy diet and active lifestyle is the best chance at preventing preeclampsia.

What are the signs of preeclampsia?

  • A persistent headache
  • Seeing spots or other changes in vision
  • Pain in the upper abdomen or shoulder
  • Nausea and vomiting (in the second half of pregnancy)
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Sudden swelling in face and hands
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decrease in urine output

Keep in mind that some of the symptoms are totally normal pregnancy complaints, so having a couple symptoms off and on isn’t immediate cause for alarm.

How will they treat your preeclampsia?

Having your baby is the only way to cure preeclampsia. If your symptoms are mild, your provider will typically admit you into the hospital to monitor you and your baby. If symptoms become worse, they have specific medications to help lower and manage your preeclampsia. Typically, you will be induced at 37 weeks, but you can be induced as early as 34 weeks of pregnancy.

The great news is, most women with preeclampsia have healthy babies, and that it’s just one of the many risks you need to know about and keep an eye out for during your pregnancy.


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