Preeclampsia is a severe blood pressure condition relating to pregnancy. It could occur after your 20th week of pregnancy or after you give birth (referred to as postpartum preeclampsia). It’s when you have high blood pressure, and there are signs showing your organs, like your liver and kidney, might not be functionally normal.
Are You at Risk for Preeclampsia?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, you’re at risk for preeclampsia if:
- You have had previous preeclampsia or gestational hypertension
- You’re a first-time mother
- You’re a woman with mothers and sisters who had preeclampsia
- You’re a woman who had kidney disease or high blood pressure prior to pregnancy
- You’re a woman who is younger than 20 and older than 40
- You’re a woman carrying multiple babies
- You’re a woman with a BMI of 30 or greater or are obese
What Are the Symptoms of Preeclampsia?
Symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- You have edema (swelling).
- You have protein in your urine.
- You have high blood pressure.
- You’re experiencing dizziness.
- You have a change in your reflexes.
- You’re experiencing severe headaches.
- You’re experiencing pain in your belly, particularly in your upper right side.
- You’re experiencing vision changes like floaters, flashing lights, or blurry vision.
- You’re peeing less or not at all.
- You’re experiencing nausea and vomiting.
In some women, there are no symptoms, therefore it’s essential you visit your doctor for routine urine tests and regular blood pressure checks.
How Do I Know If I Have Preeclampsia?
During prenatal checkups, your OB/GYN doctor checks your blood pressure, since a rise in blood pressure is an early sign of preeclampsia. If your blood pressure has more than 140/90 mm Hg on two occasions, a minimum of four hours apart, it’s considered abnormal. Your doctor might also conduct further testing, such as:
- Checking blood-clotting and kidney functions
- Checking your urine levels for protein
- Doppler scan for measuring placenta blood flow efficiency
- An ultrasound scan for checking the growth of the baby
How Can Preeclampsia Affect My Pregnancy?
Preeclampsia impacts your arteries that carry blood to your placenta. If your placenta isn’t getting sufficient blood, your baby might receive insufficient oxygen and blood and fewer nutrients. This can cause slow growth referred to as fetal growth restriction, preterm birth, or low birth weight. Depending on the severity of your preeclampsia, you might need to deliver your baby earlier than their due date.
What Are the Treatments for Preeclampsia?
Your treatment depends on how far away your due date is. If you’re getting close to your due date and your baby has developed sufficiently, your doctor will likely want to deliver your baby as soon as possible.
If you’re experiencing a mild case of Preeclampsia, but your baby hasn’t developed fully, your doctor will likely suggest you:
- Increase prenatal checkups
- Rest and lie on your left side so the baby’s weight is taken off your major blood vessels
- Drink a minimum of eight glasses of water daily
- Bed rest
- Reduce your salt intake
- Include more protein in your diet
If your case is severe, the doctor might prescribe you blood pressure medicine until you’re far enough along for safe delivery, as well as dietary changes, potential bed rest, and supplements. You also might be hospitalized temporarily or until your delivery.
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