Pre-eclampsia is a serious medical condition that can affect pregnant women and can cause complications for both mother and baby. It’s important for expectant parents to become educated about this condition so they can recognise the symptoms and seek help if needed. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about pre-eclampsia.
What is Pre-eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy, it is characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Other classic symptoms include severe headache, pain in the upper abdomen, vision changes, vomiting and swelling of the hands or face. It usually develops after 20 weeks of gestation, but may occur earlier or later in some cases, or shortly after birth. In severe cases, pre-eclampsia can lead to seizures called ‘eclampsia’ or organ damage for both mother and baby. Eclampsia seizures can be life threatening to mother and baby but luckily nowadays they are rare.
Risk Factors for Pre-eclampsia
There are certain risk factors associated with pre-eclampsia including:
- Having diabetes
- Having high blood-pressure
- Previous pre-eclampsia during a previous pregnancy
- Having Lupus
Other factors can slightly increase your chances of developing pre-eclampsia, including:
- Having a family history of pre-eclampsia
- Being 40 years old or older
- Having a gap of over 10 years between pregnancies
- Carrying multiple babies
- Having a BMI of 35 or more
Your midwife should regularly check your blood pressure throughout your pregnancy to monitor for signs of pre-eclampsia. They may also check your urine for protein levels which can indicate this condition. If you are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia then you will likely be referred to the hospital for assessment and be closely monitored to see how severe the condition is. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby, so usually you will be monitored regularly until it is possible for this to happen. You may be offered medication to help lower your blood pressure until this time.
At around 37 weeks, if deemed necessary to treat the pre-eclampsia, you may be offered to either induce labour or have a caesarean section.
Pre-eclampsia is a serious medical condition that you should be aware of throughout your pregnancy and know the symptoms of. It’s important to have consistent monitoring throughout your pregnancy from your midwife and/or doctor so that they can detect signs of pre-eclampsia and ensure the pregnancy is progressing as it should be. Remember, if you have any concerns then you should contact your healthcare provider straight away.