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Preeclampsia: What It Is, Symptoms and Treatment

Preeclampsia is a serious complication caused by high blood pressure in pregnancy.

Some expectant women with high blood pressure are prescribed medication, ultimately to prevent preeclampsia, a blood disorder that typically develops in the 3rd trimester (or any time after 20 weeks).

Preeclampsia involves persistent high blood pressure and symptoms indicating that other body organs, such as the liver or kidneys, aren’t working properly. One hallmark symptom is the presence of protein in your urine.

Why It’s So Dangerous

Preeclampsia can pose significant, even life-threatening risks to you and the baby growing inside of you.

In Moms:

This condition can lead to eclampsia (seizures during pregnancy) or HELLP syndrome (which stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count, and is a medical emergency). HELLP syndrome damages or destroys red blood cells, impairs blood clotting and can cause internal bleeding in the liver.

In Developing Babies:

A mom with preeclampsia may have a preterm delivery, which in severe cases can lead to fetal death.

Warning Signs of Preeclampsia

Detecting preeclampsia is key and sometimes hard to pick up on. Warning signs include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Unexplained anxiety
  • Dramatic weight gain
  • Decrease in urinary output

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your obstetrician or midwife immediately.

Treatment

Treatment for preeclampsia depends on how severe the case is. Some cases can be managed outside the hospital through close monitoring or medication.

In severe cases, you are managed in the hospital and delivered at 34 weeks; the only effective treatment for severe preeclampsia is delivery. Steroids will likely be given to help the baby’s lungs mature.

Talk with your healthcare provider about any concerns you have during your pregnancy, as most conditions can be managed effectively and successfully. If you do experience high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend bed rest (lying on your left side takes the baby weight off your major blood vessels,) diet changes (lose the salt!) and increased prenatal check-ups.