Preeclampsia: Everything We Need To Know

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that women experience and characterised by high blood pressure and potential damage to other organ systems. It also involves high protein levels in the urine and swelling in addition to your high blood. This complication usually occurs after the 20 weeks of pregnancy when a woman’s blood pressure is beyond normal. Preeclampsia may be life threatening to you and your baby if it is not monitored correctly. Preeclampsia also rarely develops after birth and is commonly known as postpartum preeclampsia.

It is important to always attend your prenatal care appointments so that your doctor can monitor your blood pressure. The exact cause of preeclampsia involves several factors. Experts say that it begins in the placenta which is the main organ that nourishes the fetus during your entire pregnancy. During the early phases of pregnancy, new blood vessels develop and send blood to the placenta. Therefore, in women with preeclampsia the blood vessels do not seem to develop nor function properly.

Causes of this abnormal development may include:

  • Insufficient blood flow to the uterus
  • Damage to the blood vessels
  • A problem with the immune system
  • Certain genes

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?

  • Preeclampsia may develop without showing any symptoms. Your high blood pressure may develop slowly, or increase excessively. Other symptoms includes:
  • Protein found in your urine or additional signs of kidney problems
  • Severe headaches
  • Changes in vision
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased urine output
  • Decreased levels of platelets in your blood
  • Impaired liver function
  • Shortness of breath that is caused by the fluid in your lungs

What are the possible treatments for preeclampsia?

Medications to lower blood pressure – medication such as antihypertensives are used to lower your blood pressure if it’s dangerously high. There are many different types of antihypertensives but not all are safe to use during pregnancy. It is highly recommended to discuss with your doctor if it is necessary to use an antihypertensive to control your blood pressure.

Corticosteroids – If you have severe preeclampsia or haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count syndrome (HELLP), corticosteroid medications can help improve your liver and platelet function to prolong your pregnancy.

Anticonvulsant medications – Women suffering from severe preeclampsia should consult their doctor where they may prescribe an anticonvulsant medication to prevent a seizure from occurring.

Therefore, the most effective treatment for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby unless it is too early in your pregnancy. Women with preeclampsia are at high risk of seizures, placental abruption, strokes or severe bleeding until your blood pressure decreases.