Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure during pregnancy which is accompanied by proteinuria; significant amount of protein in urine. Some women develop high blood pressure without proteinuria; this is referred to as Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH). Both preeclampsia and PIH are a leading cause of death to maternal and infant. T
he high blood pressure in preeclampsia increases the risk of stroke attack, kidney disorders, damaged liver, blood clotting, pulmonary edema and even death to maternal or baby. It also obstructs the blood flow to the placenta which might cause the baby to be born very small and imperfectly.
Typically, preeclampsia occurs in the mid to late pregnancy, but it may develop from 20 weeks gestation too. Symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- Sudden, unusual or excessive swelling of hands, feet, ankles or face. Read further about facial swelling
- Rapid weight gain of more than two pounds per week
- Puffiness around the eyes
- Severe headaches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Changes in vision
- Pain in the bowels, right shoulder or lower back
- Dizziness, anxiety and panting
It’s important that you get good prenatal care and visit your obstetrician regularly to avoid any pregnancy problems. Generally, your obstetrician will measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein at each visit.
Swelling is normal during pregnancy, however, when you experience preeclampsia symptoms such as excessive swelling of hands and feet, unusual ankles or face water retention, etc., you should report it to your obstetrician immediately. If you’re diagnosed as developing preeclampsia, you and your baby will be monitored carefully for the rest of your pregnancy. You’ll be given certain medications and treatments to prolong the pregnancy thus increase your baby’s changes to grow perfectly and survive.
Untreated preeclampsia will lead to eclampsia. When this happens, the only treatment is delivery of the baby regardless of the baby’s age.