Pre-eclampsia is a common serious condition that can happen after 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to the World Health Organisation it affects between 2% and 10% of pregnancies worldwide (Mou, AD et al). It involves high blood pressure and protein in the urine, usually due to abnormal kidney function but can affect organs in your body such as your liver, blood and brain. Untreated preeclampsia can lead to serious or fatal complications for mum and bub. Women are assessed via a risk factor screening or through blood tests and blood pressure measurements hence the reason your health care provider will take your blood pressure each time they see you.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms seek advice from your doctor or midwife immediately.
- Sudden or rapid swelling of hands, face and feet
- Shortness of breath
- Headaches that won’t go away
- Changes in your vision (Flashing lights or spots)
- Severe pain below the ribs
- Heartburn that doesn’t go away with antacids
- Excess protein in urine
Researchers report that the likely cause of Pre-eclampsia is the blood vessels in the placenta aren’t working properly. Difficulty with the circulation of the blood in the placenta may lead to an irregular regulation of blood pressure in mum.
Things that could increase your risk of developing Pre-eclampsia:
- Preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
- Chronic high blood pressure
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes prior to pregnancy
- Kidney disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Family history
- Older than 35 years of age
Treatments for Pre-eclampsia:
Depending on the severity your doctor may recommend;
- Monitoring at hospital
- Blood Pressure medications
- Early delivery/induction of bub
These treatments will be discussed between you and your health care provider.
Pre-eclampsia if left untreated can have severe complications for mum and bub. If ignoring the symptoms you increase the risk of seizures, stroke, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease in the future.
For bubs, Pre-eclampsia can affect the amount of oxygen and blood they get from the placenta. This may mean that they have:
- Decreased fetal growth
- If delivered before 37 weeks that may have difficulties with
- Developmental delays
Here are some measures you can take to help reduce the risk of developing Pre-eclampsia as reported by the Monash Health Women’s.
- Maintaining a healthy BMI
- Controlling any chronic medical conditions
- Low dose aspirin and calcium supplementation.
*Any medications should be discussed with your health care practitioner, they will decide if this is the right measures for your individual case
If you are concerned or identify with anything mentioned above, I encourage you to speak with your midwife or GP as soon as you can.
- Prevalence of preeclampsia and the associated risk factors among pregnant women in Bangladesh. Mou AD, Barman Z, Hasan M, Miah R, Hafsa JM, Das Trisha A, Ali N. Sci Rep. 2021;11:21339.
- Preventing Preeclampsia https://monashwomens.org/health-information/first-trimester-pregnancy/preventing-pre-eclampsia/
- Risk of Preeclampsia . Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. https://www.health.gov.au/resources/pregnancy-care-guidelines/part-d-clinical-assessments/risk-of-pre-eclampsia