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Pregnancy Nightmare: Preeclampsia

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Pregnancy Nightmare: Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a condition present exclusively in pregnant. In this condition, pregnant women develop high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy, usually late in the second trimester or during the third trimester. This may occur in women who previously had normal blood pressure, which is at or below 120 over 80 (120/80) mm Hg. Even a slight increase in blood pressure may be indicative of preeclampsia. If preeclampsia is left untreated, it can lead to serious and life threatening complications for both the mother and the baby. Usually, the best treatment for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby, which may pose serious threats to the baby’s life, especially if early in the pregnancy. Preeclampsia was previously called toxemia as it was previously believed to be caused by a toxin present in the bloodstream of the pregnant women, but the theory has been disproven.

Causes of Preeclampsia

Severe headaches is a common symptom of preeclampsia

Severe headaches is a common symptom of preeclampsia

The exact cause of preeclampsia is still undetermined. Possible causes may include the following:

  • Problems or damage to the blood vessels
  • Insufficient flow of blood to the uterus
  • Diet
  • Genes
  • Autoimmune disorders

Risk Factors for Preeclampsia

Although all pregnant women are at risk for preeclampsia, there are certain risk factors that may increase a person’s chances of developing preeclampsia, which include:

  • History of preeclampsia
  • First pregnancy
  • Multiple pregnancy (twins or more)
  • Prolonged interval between pregnancies
  • New paternity
  • Overweight
  • Age – older than 35 years of age
  • History of high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • Diabetes and gestational diabetes
  • Vitamin D sufficiency

Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia often starts abruptly but some cases have developed over time. Signs and symptoms may range from mild to severe, which include the following:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) – 140/90 mm Hg
  • Presence of excess protein in the urine (proteinuria)
  • Decreased urine output
  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the upper abdomen, typically under the ribs on the right side
  • Vision changes, such as temporary loss of vision, blurred vision, or photosensitivity
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swelling of hands and face or eyes

Treatment for Preeclampsia

The only way to treat preeclampsia is delivery, unless it is too early in the delivery, thus the baby may still not be mature. The doctor may also recommend the following treatments for preeclampsia:

  • Lots of bed rest, particularly lying on the left side for most of the time
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat less salt
  • Frequent visits to the doctors
  • Medications that will lower blood pressure

Preeclampsia is a condition when a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure (hypertension) and excessive protein in the urine. It is a medical emergency. To learn how to recognize signs and symptoms of medical emergencies such as preeclampsia, enroll in First Aid Courses.

Online Sources:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000898.htm http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preeclampsia/basics/definition/con-20031644

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