Worried pregnant womanAlthough health care providers have long cautioned pregnant women to reduce stress and remain as calm as possible during their pregnancies for the health of the baby, this can often be a difficult order to follow. Let’s face it—expectant women have a lot to worry about. In addition to commonplace concerns such as finances, parenting, and the impending life transformation that new arrival will bring, there are a host of ailments that specifically target women during their pregnancies. One such condition is called preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is a condition that affects between five and eight percent of women during the second and third trimester of their pregnancies, and is diagnosable by the presence of protein in the woman’s urine combined with high blood pressure. Although doctors are still unsure exactly what causes preeclampsia, they have identified some risk factors which seem to contribute to its prevalence. Most doctors agree that preeclampsia is likely caused by either autoimmune disorders, problems with the pregnant woman’s blood vessels, her nutritional habits, or her genetic makeup. Women who are having their first baby, those who are expecting multiples, obese women, women older than 35, or those with a history of high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes are considered to be at a higher risk for preeclampsia than other expectant women.

Since preeclampsia is often a silent illness and is only detected through urine tests administered by your physician, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the risk of preeclampsia and attend your regular check-ups. Although some women do not have any perceivable symptoms of preeclampsia at all, others experience swelling, persistent headaches, drastic weight gain, mood changes, changes in urinating patterns, blurred vision, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Although preeclampsia can be a dangerous condition for pregnant women and their babies – resulting in placental abruption, stroke, and in rare cases death – it can be managed. In some cases, the baby will be delivered early if preeclampsia is diagnosed, usually after the 37th week. In cases where the baby has not developed enough to be delivered, the condition will be treated either at home or in the hospital, depending upon its severity. Some women can self-treat the condition at home by getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and decreasing salt intake, while others need to be admitted to the hospital for more intense care. Hospital treatments of preeclampsia can include steroid injections and intravenous anti-seizure drugs.

Premature birth is the biggest risk for infants as a result of preeclampsia. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation (2011), the condition is to blame for up to twenty percent of premature births worldwide. Prematurity can cause a host of long-term developmental problems for babies and can sometimes even result in death.

Although there is no guaranteed prevention or cure for preeclampsia, if detected early enough the condition is definitely manageable. If you have a history of preeclampsia or believe that you are at risk, talk to your health care provider immediately. The more you know about the condition and the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chances are that you will bring your baby home in good health.

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  1. Profile photo of Gema Gema says:

    I had horrible swelling from my thighs down to my foot’s pinky toes during my 2nd and 3rd trimesters! But my blood pressure was always healthy even while I was swollen. So I wasn’t put on bedrest. I was reduced to half days at work though since I sit at a computer all day and it would make my legs swell even more since the blood would pool a bit. I would goo home and put my feet up as much as I could. Soak in cold water with epsom salts and get foot massages from my husband, my mom, my sister … anyone who was willing! I had an amazing support team! But my doctor never told me to worry about this since my blood pressure was normal. I also had to do about 3 of those 24 hour urine specimen tests to check for protein but all of those came back normal. Once I went into delivery, it all happened so fast. Delivery only lasted about an hour thank goodness! But I was diagnosed with preeclampsia a few moments before I delivered. They told me the only way to cure it was to deliver. And I was already on that path. The nurses were so nice and calm. They told me they would help me get through it. I would need to have magnesium sulfate injected through my IV and that it was to help ward of seizures. I was so scared for a moment but the baby didn’t give me time to worry. He was coming and he was coming out fast. Everything went fine! Recovering was a bit rough just because the magnesium sulfate seemed to ware me out! I had trouble sitting up because it would make me nauseus and one time when I sat up to try to go to the bathroom with assistance from the nurses, I lost hearing in both ears … not sure if it was a side effect or a coincidence. But they slowly laid me back down and I had to have a catheter the whole time I was in the hospital which was not exactly fun. My swelling didn’t go down until about two months after I had delivered. I felt like I had elephant legs the whole time!

    I am pregnant again, currently in my second trimester but this time, no sign of swelling. I have been taking extra care this time because now that I have researched preeclampsia, I am scared to have it happen again. My biggest fear is losing my baby or that I will die and never get a chance to meet my new son or to watch my children grow and spend the rest of my life with the man that I most love. But I try not to think about it. So I just walk a lot more this time around. Baby and I take strolls to the park. When my husband gets home sometimes we go to the park and he will encourage me to take a walk around the park with him. I take more frequent breaks at work to walk around or to stretch. Sometimes to just put my feet up. My boss is totally fine with it and encourages me to do so. I’m also a swimmer so big brother, daddy and I go to the pool and swim around and it helps me get my legs moving a little more effortlessly. I also try to stay away from potato chips and other salty snacks no matter how badly I am craving them. I have only noticed swelling when we travel for periods longer than 30 minutes so I need to find a way to solve that problem. Maybe more comfy shoes? Putting my feet up in the car squishes my tummy and makes me want to pee every five minutes. Maybe more walking breaks even if it extends the length of our trips? I haven’t quite found a solution for it yet but am working on it because we do a lot of traveling. But so far, I am better than last pregnancy as far as the swelling and for that I am thankful. I don’t want to go through preeclampsia again. It is a little scary but it can be overcome!

  2. im 34 weeks and dealing with this, was told strict bedrest, no doing anything on my feet, and a low sodium diet. I knew something was wrong at 32 weeks and it wasnt till i got a second opinion was i admitted into the hospital to find out i was already 2 cm dilated with contractions 6 mins apart , so now im on medication to help ease me into 37 weeks to a safe delivery, just letting my baby boys lungs develop as good as i can wish us luck <3

  3. Profile photo of Lisa Lisa says:

    I’m only 19 weeks and my doctor is worried about my blood pressure already and it worries me because I’m not even half way yet with a history of preterm labor and high blood pressure. Should i be so worried?

    • Profile photo of LIZ says:

      dont worry, i was at the same risk like you, and i just think in other things and did so much exercise and practice yoga, that helps me a lot, be happy its the most important thing trust me

    • Profile photo of Megan KlayEditor Megan Klay says:

      Hi Lisa – You’re worrying won’t help anything, but definitely discuss it in detail with your doctor. What you can do to help your high blood pressure, how it could affect your pregnancy and delivery, etc. Information is power and will likely help to ease your worry. Write down your questions and bring them with you along with a pen so you can take notes from the conversation. Best wishes!

  4. Profile photo of Gma_Butta Gma_Butta says:

    My daughter is 36 weeks pregnant with high blood pressure & swelling. Her doctor has placed her on bed rest laying only on her left side. At her appointment yesterday her blood pressure was 133/94 so the doctor put her on blood pressure medicine 4 times a day. Is it common to take blood pressure medicine during pregnancy? She has every symptom of preeclampsia, but It seems to me that her doctor is taking her condition quite lightly, while I am seriously worried.


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