Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy disorder that is known to affect nearly 2 to 8% of all pregnancies. It counts as one of the leading cause of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality all around the globe. I want to start with a story about my friend who suffered from this life-threatening disease when she was pregnant with her first child.
My friend Kate was 39 weeks pregnant and she and her husband were pretty confident that nothing bad would happen at such late stage of her pregnancy. On a regular doctor’s appointment, she got her urine test results back that showed she had a trace of protein in it. But the doctor didn’t give any red signal assuring her that it’s normal during pregnancy. But few days after that, she suffered a really bad splitting headache.
She was taken to the emergency unit right away and had her blood pressure taken. The doctors were shocked seeing the readings because for someone who looked really well a blood pressure that high was very unlikely. She was later diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia and she was told that her baby would need to come straight away through surgery. She was immediately taken to the operation unit and cannulas were being inserted into her wrists because due to high blood pressure, her veins had started to shut down. She was already having complications. After the surgery, she found that her baby boy had already stopped breathing inside her due to her high blood pressure (216/110) and he was resuscitated for more than an hour till they finally found a heartbeat! Unfortunately, due to lack of sufficient breathing, little Theo suffered a massive brain injury and managed to survive for 44 beautiful hours. Kate had never even imagined in her worst nightmare that a disease like preeclampsia would take the life of her once a healthy baby boy.
She was also told that she was really lucky to survive herself as the severely high blood pressure could have easily taken her life. My lips went numb and I felt cold chills down my spine as I heard her story. I realized that this could happen to anyone, even me, without any warning signs. Hence I decided to research it and find out everything about it including its causes, symptoms and possible treatments.
What is Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a serious medical complication that occurs during pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine during pregnancy. This disorder can happen at any point after the20the week of pregnancy, while in some cases it can also happen earlier. The early indicators of this disorder are kidney or liver problem, low clotting factors in the blood, high levels of protein in the urine. Around 5 to 10 percent of all pregnant women suffer from preeclampsia.
The symptoms of preeclampsia are not that evident during the early stages. Some might not even notice any symptoms until the situation gets complicated. Nevertheless, some common signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- abnormal swelling of hands and face
- sudden weight gain
- persistent headache
- changes in vision
- Intense pain in the upper abdomen
If the condition worsens, then it can affect your internal organs including kidney’s, liver and brain. It can also affect the placenta, keeping the life of your baby in danger. The pregnant mother might also suffer from seizures, organ failure, and even death. This condition is term as Eclampsia.
Now you’re pretty clear about this deadly disease, a question is probably stuck in your mind. “What Causes Preeclampsia?”
Despite several research and studies, medical experts and doctors are yet to find out the exact cause of preeclampsia. However, a couple of factors have been known to be the triggers for this disorder like:
- change in diet
- genetic factors
- constricted or dilated blood vessels
- Autoimmune disorders
Beside the above mentioned, there are also several underlying risk factors that increase the chance of developing pre-eclampsia during your pregnancy. One of the major factors include women with chronic high blood pressure. Other factors include:
- pregnancy at over 40 years of age
- pregnant with multiple fetuses
- pregnant with diabetes
- having a history of a kidney disorder
- pregnancy in early teens
- Immunity disorders
- insufficient blood flow to the uterus
Treatment and Prevention
The safest and only cure for preeclampsia is delivery of your baby. If you don’t deliver your baby during preeclampsia, chances are that you and your baby both are at risk of losing your life. If the disorder occurs during the early stages of your pregnancy then you need to stay in close monitoring with your doctor to manage your blood pressure. If you’re at the final stages like 37 weeks or later then your doctor might induce labor. Some of the preliminary treatment methods that you can apply might include:
- proper bed rest
- reducing salt intake
- drinking lots of water
- regulating high blood pressure through diet
- taking blood pressure medications
If you have a chronic high blood pressure, then your doctor might recommend you a daily low-dose aspirin (81mgs) at the beginning and taking in calcium supplements prevent preeclampsia.
If your condition is serious, your doctor may want to admit you to the hospital for more thorough monitoring. You might be given intravenous (IV) medications to lower your blood pressure or steroid injections to help your baby’s lungs develop quicker.
Bottom line is that, if you’re pregnant, check your family history, whether anyone had preeclampsia or not. Give optimum priority to your and your baby’s health. Go for a regular check-up at your midwife or doctor. Only if preeclampsia is detected early, you and your doctor can work together to prevent the possible complications and choose the best options for the safety of you and your baby.
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