Understanding Preeclampsia


blood draw

What is preeclampsia?

Once known as toxemia, it is caused by a defect in the placenta which causes a pregnant woman's blood pressure to rise, endangering mother and baby. Affecting about 7% of all pregnancies, it is the most common of the serious complications of pregnancy. About one in 50 women are afflicted by severe preeclampsia.

In severe cases, preeclampsia can be very dangerous to both mother and baby. The mother could develop seizures and, due to the possibility of a low platelet count caused by the disease, could hemorrhage. In the meantime, the baby would be living in a hostile environment due to the elevated blood pressure. There would be a reduced level of blood flow to the baby, which would result in a reduced flow of oxygen and nourishment.

Am I at risk of preeclampsia?
Those most at risk are women with family histories of preeclampsia, long-standing high blood pressure or kidney disease, pregnancy-induced diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus, and those older than 40 years old.

When in pregnancy does preeclampsia occur?
Preeclampsia is a disease that usually afflicts the second half of pregnancy, usually within the last weeks of a woman's term. In certain cases, such as those with risk factors, it can occur much earlier. In other rare cases it can occur immediately postpartum, up to 6 weeks after giving birth. 

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?
Some symptoms include blurred vision, headaches, upper-right abdominal pain, swelling in the hands or face, infrequent urination, and rapid weight gain. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms are not specific only to preeclampsia; many of them are also associated with a normal pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk to your doctor about preeclampsia to be sure.

The most common indicator of preeclampsia is an elevation in blood pressure. For some women, a blood pressure of 130/80 can signal the condition, while others may not be diagnosed until their blood pressure is much higher. It all depends on the base blood pressure. If the upper number goes up by 30 or if the bottom number goes up by 15, preeclampsia is suspected.

How will my doctor be sure?
Blood tests can be done, and preeclampsia can be indicated by a low platelet count or abnormal liver or kidney test results. Protein in the woman's urine can also lead to diagnosis of the condition.

Is there a cure?
Preeclampsia treatment begins by delivery of the baby, when at all possible. In severe cases, the doctor may insist on a caesarian section. Delivery of babies early due to preeclampsia includes an added risk of death due to prematurity. But sometimes symptoms can persist, or even begin, after delivery. There are treatment options to help alleviate symptoms, including medications, diet, and rest. 

Will preeclampsia reoccur?
About ten percent of women will have preeclampsia in a subsequent pregnancy. The chances of reoccurrence increase in women with high risk factors.

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Are there any permanent side effects?
There are no long term effects associated with preeclampsia. About ten percent of women with preeclampsia may have high blood pressure for a few weeks after delivery. Although it may cause very high blood pressure during pregnancy, preeclampsia is not a predictor of high blood pressure later in life.

What do you think?

Understanding Preeclampsia

Tell us what you think!

34 comments

  1. Joanna says:

    Scarey, I wonder if they ever consider it in time with people who normally have low blood pressure, and it rises to a normal range… they say top/bottom numbers up by about 15… curious.

  2. Lynna says:

    wow, seems like a scary thing! i know it doesnt run in my family, so helps ease the thought a little

  3. I had preeclampsia with my second pregnancy. I had to be on bed rest because of it, which is hard to do with a 2 yr old running around. But because of that and miscarriages I’m high risk. I’m pregnant with baby #4 and doing awesome, not issues with swelling at all.

  4. liz says:

    i had at the end of my pregnancy, my baby came 3 weeks early the only thing was, i didnt have any of the symptoms

  5. 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.

  6. Ashley says:

    I had it at the end of my first pregnancy and the high blood pressure didnt go away. Right now in this pregnancy i don’t have high blood pressure but thy are not ruling it out yet. I am just now a little over 20 weeks so they will be able to tel soon.

  7. Tina says:

    very informative 🙂

  8. Maytte says:

    Oh poo, it sounds like I have it

  9. Tina says:

    This is good to know

  10. Aiden says:

    It’s good to leave all in the hands of God

  11. Aiden says:

    I hope this doesn’t happen to myself or anyone for that matter

  12. Marilyn says:

    I hope I do okay.

  13. PrettyBoogs says:

    I hope very much to avoid this so I can keep my wonderful midwife.

  14. Papas_Dolly says:

    I’m glad this is here… because my appointment today, the doc told me I have to go in to have my BP checked again because it’s to high. Hope everything goes well next week at my app. 33 1/2 weeks..

  15. Anastacia113 says:

    I had Preeclampsia with my 2nd child early on but not with my 1st or 3rd.

  16. They always check for me, but my blood pressure is always pretty low. Hopefully it stays that way!

  17. i have the very same fear

  18. Jeanetta says:

    As of now my blood pressure is normal, hopefully it stays that way.

  19. yayataylor22 says:

    I usually get low blood pressure 0.o

  20. Julie says:

    My blood pressure has been normal, but my step sister had this bad. She kept passing out during delivery. She had been afraid the entire pregnancy that she would die during childbirth and then it didn’t make that fear any better when she found out she had preeclampsia.

  21. SammysMOMMY says:

    I guess I read this article twice!

  22. SammysMOMMY says:

    I unfortunately have severely low blood pressure.

  23. Alyssa says:

    I am glad that God has helped me through this pregnacy after my miscarege last year.

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