Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment of Preeclampsia
May 3, 2022May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to shed light on a serious health condition that occurs only during pregnancy. Here we share an overview of preeclampsia and some steps you can take to help reduce your risk.
What is Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that affects 5% to 8% of all pregnancies. The condition includes symptoms of high blood pressure and protein in the urine that can indicate damage to the liver or kidneys. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal.1
The rise in blood pressure may develop gradually or without warning, so moms-to-be should make monitoring their blood pressure a priority. Blood pressure that is considered abnormal is 140/90 or higher and documented on two occasions at least four hours apart.2
There are two types of preeclampsia: mild and severe.
A mild case includes symptoms such as high blood pressure and protein in the urine. A severe case can also include headaches, blurred vision, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, urinating in small volumes, upper right abdominal pain, and shortness of breath.
What Causes Preeclampsia?
Experts think preeclampsia begins in the placenta and has several contributing factors, including poor nutrition, high body fat, a lack of blood flow to the uterus, and genetics.3
Who is at Risk for Preeclampsia?
Pregnant women who are at the greatest risk for developing preeclampsia include:
- First-time moms
- Women who have previous experience with gestational hypertension or preeclampsia
- Women whose sisters and mothers had preeclampsia
- Women carrying multiple babies
- Women who are younger than age 20 and older than age 40
- Women who had high blood pressure or kidney disease prior to pregnancy
- Women who are obese or have a BMI of 30 or greater
How to Reduce Your Risk
If you have a mild case of preeclampsia, your doctor will most likely recommend that you get lots of rest and lie on your left side, increase your prenatal checkups, reduce your salt intake, drink at least eight glasses of water a day, and eat more protein.
If your case is severe, your doctor will probably recommend all of the above and possibly treat you with blood pressure medication until you can safely deliver.
Whether you are planning for pregnancy or think you may be experiencing symptoms that seem “out of the ordinary,” consult with your doctor.
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