Perhaps one of the most notorious afflictions that can occur during pregnancy is preeclampsia, a dangerous condition that affects around 5-8% of all pregnancies. Its notoriety comes from its unclear cause, the severity of its complications, and the difficulty of managing the condition. However, with proper detection and treatment, you can manage preeclampsia, and in many cases, the pregnancy can proceed normally. Knowing more about this condition can help mothers-to-be become more prepared to deal with this condition.
What is Preeclampsia in Pregnancy?
At its core, preeclampsia is the manifestation of two events during pregnancy: high blood pressure, and damage to the liver or kidneys. It usually occurs during the second trimester in women who had normal blood pressure before and during the first few months of pregnancy. However, a variant called postpartum preeclampsia can also occur after birth. Whatever the time of occurrence, uncontrolled preeclampsia can have lethal consequences for you and your baby, so early detection and management is crucial. As explained later, the most effective treatment for preeclampsia is the delivery of the baby, which can be problematic if the onset of the condition is too early to ensure safe delivery.
What Causes Preeclampsia?
Experts used to call preeclampsia the “disease of theories” due to the confusing variety of proposed causes of the condition. Nowadays, while there is some consensus already, the origins of preeclampsia are still active areas of research. Many theories focus on how the placenta interacts with the mother’s body. It is possible that there are problems with how placental blood vessels attached to the blood vessels of the mother, restricting blood supply to the baby. It is also possible that the placenta sends excessive amounts of chemical messengers into the maternal bloodstream, causing the body to mount a damaging inflammatory response against the placenta.
Risk Factors To Preeclampsia
The causes of preeclampsia are still under study. There are some identifiable risk factors. Here are some risk factors associated with preeclampsia.
- Obesity or a history of obesity
- History of hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease
- Age (Women below 35 years old are at higher risk)
- Family history of preeclampsia
- First-time pregnancy, including the first one with a new partner
- Multiple pregnancies
- Pregnancies from in-vitro fertilization
- Having babies less than 2 years or over 10 years since last pregnancy
If these risk factors apply to you, it’s best to consult your doctor early on. This way, you can learn about preventive measures. You may then plan for the possibility of preeclampsia.
Symptoms and Complications
High blood pressure is the most prevalent symptom of preeclampsia, so many of its symptoms are similar to those found in high blood pressure. Lacey Krebsbach, MD adds that, “Typical preeclampsia starts with elevated blood pressures and excess protein in the urine. But, not every case is typical.” For instance, the following may occur:
- body fluid retention
- reduced urination
- rapid weight gain
- changes in vision
Pregnant women with preeclampsia can also experience no symptoms. However, you need to contact your OB-GYN immediately if you have the following signs of severe preeclampsia:
- sudden swelling near face, hands, and eyes
- blood pressure readings above 130/80
- severe and sudden disturbances in vision
- heavy abdominal pain
Preeclampsia can be very dangerous, as it can limit the amount of blood that the baby receives during pregnancy, increasing the chances of your baby having learning or developmental disabilities as well as problems with vision or hearing. In rare cases, the condition can cause stroke, seizures, heart complications, and even blindness. Finally, preeclampsia can cause placental abruption, where the placenta disconnects from the uterus, causing stillbirth.
Treatment and Prevention
There are no definite strategies to avoid preeclampsia. However, there are some ways to minimize risk. You can prevent preeclampsia by staying healthy. You may do this before and during your pregnancy. Preventive measures include losing weight. This is advisable if you are overweight and eating healthy foods. Exercising regularly with a low-impact routine can also help.
Calcium supplements and low-dose aspirin are also advisable. However, make sure to consult your doctor. This is recommended before taking any medication or supplements.
As mentioned earlier, the best cure for preeclampsia is the delivery of the baby, as the symptoms disappear rather quickly postpartum. According to M. Sean Esplin, MD,
“Your doctor will treat your preeclampsia based on how severe your symptoms are, how far along you are, and how well your baby is doing.” If the pregnancy is already beyond 37 weeks, then it is usually safe to induce labor. Your baby won’t be considered immature anymore if born by this period. If your baby is younger than 37 weeks, your doctor will discuss how far your baby has developed. He or she will also discuss the overall health of you and your baby, as labor may still be induced. Of course, this will result in premature birth, your baby will require special treatment for several weeks, and it is possible for your baby not to survive the early delivery. Other options include continuing to carry the baby and attempting to manage the condition.
For patients who will try to control the symptoms of preeclampsia, they will need antihypertensive medication. This medicine will help to reduce their high blood pressure. Melissa March, MD says, “Experts advise women with a high risk for preeclampsia to take low-dose aspirin daily starting at the beginning of the second trimester, which reduces their risk.” They might also get medicine to suppress seizures, as this is a common complication of preeclampsia. Sometimes, pregnant women get steroid medication to help the baby develop faster and to hasten delivery of the baby. The mother may be admitted to the hospital. In that way, the doctor can monitor the patient more closely and tend to any possible injuries.
Other Conditions Affecting Your Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
Gestational hypertension is one present only during pregnancy. Unlike preeclampsia, this condition doesn’t result in less protein concentration in the urine. Gestational hypertension is different. It may eventually develop into preeclampsia.
Chronic hypertension occurs before pregnancy. It is a condition wherein you already have high blood pressure. These are why you should closely monitor your blood pressure during pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What symptoms do you get when your 1 week pregnant?
Pregnancy symptoms don’t occur right away. Most of the symptoms are evident in the 4th week of pregnancy. The first signs of pregnancy include missed period, vomiting, soreness or tenderness of breasts, frequent peeing, and fatigue.
How early do pregnancy symptoms start?
For some, symptoms start as early as one week into the pregnancy. While for others, it may take weeks before the symptoms begin for them to notice.
How do you feel in your stomach when pregnant?
During pregnancy, the stomach may feel bloated, round, and full. This feeling is caused by the pregnancy hormone acting in the body.
What is the pregnancy?
Pregnancy is the period wherein a baby grows inside the womb until it is ready for birth. This occurs during ovulation when an egg is fertilized by a sperm. Pregnancy usually lasts for around 9 months or 40 weeks after the last menstrual cycle.
How do I know am pregnant?
Symptoms occur to indicate pregnancy. Some of these includes a missed period, nausea, fatigue, and frequent urination. If you notice these symptoms, a pregnancy test kit can confirm it for you and it will also best to see your doctor.
What makes you pee a lot in early pregnancy?
During pregnancy, there is an increase in blood flow which causes a 25% increase in urine. This increase is at peak between weeks 9 to 16 of pregnancy. Peeing is also affected by the pressure on the bladder from the uterus.
Can a man sense if a woman is pregnant?
Couvade Syndrome happens when expectant dads also experience symptoms of pregnancy. This type of syndrome is not fully understood yet but occurs mostly during the first trimester. Some symptoms of the Couvade syndrome include anxiety, change in appetite, back pain, and gastrointestinal issues.
Is white discharge a sign of pregnancy?
Pregnancy is characterized by vaginal discharge. It is a sticky pale-yellow or white mucus that begins in the first trimester and lasts the entire pregnancy. This happens because of the increased blood flow in the vagina.