May Is Preeclampsia Awareness Month

Preeclampsia is a common complication that typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy and, if left untreated, can result in serious complications for both mother and baby.

Preeclampsia can happen to anyone and without warning, so awareness is a key component to getting the right care at the right time. Preeclampsia Awareness Month, which occurs every year during the month of May, serves as an opportunity to educate everyone so we are all better equipped to handle this condition.

Symptoms of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia can sometimes be difficult to detect. The primary symptoms of preeclampsia are high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. However, high blood pressure is fairly common in pregnancy with or without preeclampsia, and protein in the urine can easily go unnoticed without a urinalysis.

Although there are other symptoms, it’s not uncommon for preeclampsia to present without any outward warning signs. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Fluid retention and swelling in the feet, ankles, and hands
  • Severe headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Urinating less often
  • Abdominal pain on the right side

Causes and Risk Factors of Preeclampsia

The exact causes of preeclampsia aren’t fully understood but have been linked to genetics, damaged blood vessels, and problems with the immune system.

There are also a number of risk factors that can increase the chance of someone developing preeclampsia, including:

  • Being 35 or older
  • A history of high blood pressure, kidney problems, or diabetes
  • Being obese
  • First-time pregnancy
  • A personal or family history of preeclampsia
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)

Preeclampsia Complications

Preeclampsia can cause complications for both mother and fetus. Babies in utero are impacted by growth restriction caused by a lack of blood flow to the placenta and, as a result, can be born small or prematurely. Premature birth can lead to problems such as learning disabilities, hearing and vision problems, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy.

For mothers, serious complications are rare, but can include:

  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Liver problems
  • Seizures

In some cases, death.

Treatment for Preeclampsia

In most cases, preeclampsia is resolved once the baby and placenta have been delivered, so the main treatment is to induce labor. If you develop preeclampsia prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will create a birthing plan that takes both your health and your baby’s health into account. Doctors also sometimes prescribe medications to help lower blood pressure or prevent seizures.

Can Preeclampsia be Prevented?

Preeclampsia cannot be fully prevented, but there are some lifestyle adjustments that women can take in order to reduce their risk for high blood pressure and preeclampsia, including:

  • Reducing or eliminating salt from your diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Drinking at least six to eight glasses of water every day

Learn More

Preeclampsia is sometimes unavoidable, but the serious complications that it can cause can be significantly reduced by taking preventative measures. To learn more about preeclampsia and your risks, contact Pacific Women’s Obstetrics & Gynecology today.

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