What is Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia, once known as toxemia, is a disease which occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, or following delivery of the baby.
Preeclampsia is a group of symptoms which include high blood pressure, swelling of the face and hands, and protein in the urine. It is not known what causes preeclampsia. It is a potentially serious disease, which can lead to premature delivery.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia?
The signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- high blood pressure
- facial swelling
- swelling of the hands
- sudden weight gain (more than 2 pounds in a week or 6 pounds in a month)
- vision problems
- pain in the upper abdomen
A more severe form of preeclampsia is called HELLP syndrome and causes an additional set of symptoms which include impaired liver function, and bleeding.
Preeclampsia occurs more frequently in multiple pregnancy (when there are 2 or more fetuses), and when the mother has diabetes, chronic high blood pressure, kidney disease, and lupus, or when there is a family history. Preeclampsia is also more common in teenagers and women over the age of 35.
How is Preeclampsia Diagnosed?
Preeclampsia is diagnosed by monitoring your blood pressure at your prenatal visits and performing a urine test for protein in the urine.
It is critical to keep all of your prenatal appointments so that your vital signs can be tracked regularly. Your prenatal visits are important in insuring you and your baby are healthy.
Preeclampsia is a condition which often presents no symptoms at first, so if you wait until you have symptoms to visit your health care provider, the condition may be advanced.
What is the Treatment for Preeclampsia?
A mild case of preeclampsia can be managed at home with bed rest. Your health care provider will monitor your condition closely, checking your blood pressure and urine weekly. You may also be requested to monitor your blood pressure at home.
If the preeclampsia is more severe, it may require admission to the hospital. This will enable closer monitoring of your condition and the well being of your baby. If you are hospitalized you will be given regular non-stress tests and contraction stress tests in order to monitor the health of your baby.
You may be given regular ultrasound tests to monitor the health of your pregnancy. If your amniotic fluid levels are found to be low, this may indicate a more severe problem which would necessitate an early delivery.
Preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, which is a seizure. Management of preeclampsia is geared at preventing seizures and other disorders in the mother as well as maintaining the well being of the baby.
If you are able to carry your pregnancy full term, you may be given magnesium sulfate intravenously during labor in order to prevent a seizure from occurring.
In severe cases, the only real cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby.
Blood pressure generally will return to normal within a few weeks following delivery of the baby.
What is the Risk of Preeclampsia in Future Pregnancies?
The risk of having preeclampsia in a future pregnancy depends on the severity of the condition. If your preeclampsia is mild, then the risk of having the condition in a future pregnancy is low.
If preeclampsia is severe, the chance of a recurrence in a future pregnancy is between 25 and 50 percent.