What You Need to Know About Preeclampsia
May 31, 2016
Signs and Symptoms
For many women, preeclampsia may be silent and have no obvious symptoms. A routine check during a prenatal visit may show elevated blood pressure and high protein in the urine. However, other women may experience some or all of these symptoms:
- Swelling of Face, Eyes or Hands – Some swelling during pregnancy is normal, but excessive fluid buildup in the face, eyes or hands can be a concern. If an indentation remains for a few seconds after pressing around the face, eyes or hands, it may be an indication that excessive swelling is present.2
- Headaches – Migraine-like headaches (dull, severe or throbbing) that just don’t seem to go away are cause for concern.2
- Nausea and Vomiting – Morning sickness affects many women. However, nausea or vomiting after the first trimester and during mid-pregnancy may be linked to preeclampsia.2
- Abdominal or Shoulder Pain – Pain in the upper right quadrant of the body should not be dismissed. Mothers experiencing pain under their ribs on the right side, or up through the shoulder on the right side, should notify their health care provider.2
- Lower Back Pain – As pregnancy progresses, lower back pain is common due to the extra weight mothers are carrying. But lower back pain also can be an indicator of problems with the mother’s liver if preeclampsia is present.2
- Sudden Weight Gain – Women should gain about two pounds per week throughout pregnancy. A sudden increase in weight from one week to the next, with no change in diet or exercise, may be a sign of preeclampsia. Damaged blood vessels, which may occur when preeclampsia is present, cause water to leak and stay in the body’s tissues instead of passing through the kidneys to be excreted in urine.2
- Changes in Vision – Changes in vision, such as flashing lights, auras, light sensitivity, spots or blurry vision, should be reported to a health care provider immediately. They may indicate central nervous system issues or swelling of the brain.2
- Hyperreflexia – This is an overreaction of the involuntary nervous system to stimulation. It may indicate changes to the central nervous system.2
- Feelings of Anxiety or Shortness of Breath – A racing pulse, jittery feelings, mental confusion, shortness of breath or an elevated sense of anxiety may be symptoms of preeclampsia and indicate elevated blood pressure.2
Complications and Treatment
Left untreated and in severe cases, preeclampsia can be fatal to mothers and their babies. Elevated blood pressure may put mothers at risk for brain injury and impaired kidney and liver function, lead to blood clotting issues, cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs, and lead to seizures.3 The condition also affects blood flow to the placenta, which may lead to smaller or premature babies.3
The good news is that in the majority of cases, preeclampsia can be managed so that mothers recover once the condition subsides and their babies grow normally and are healthy after delivery. Proper prenatal care is essential in diagnosing and treating preeclampsia. Strict monitoring by the prenatal team and other health care providers is necessary. This includes tracking blood pressure, ordering lab tests to determine the condition of the mother’s liver, kidneys and blood clotting ability, and watching closely for indications of an impending seizure or stroke. In addition, the baby’s growth rate is monitored and stress tests are administered to evaluate how the baby is coping.
Causes of Preeclampsia
The cause of preeclampsia is not known. Scientists have determined that the placenta plays a key role in preeclampsia, and women with chronic hypertension and certain metabolic diseases, like diabetes, are more susceptible.3 There are some indicators that obesity is a major risk factor to a woman developing preeclampsia.3
Nutritional Support for Mothers & Babies
It is recommended that women who are thinking of becoming pregnant begin practicing healthy nutritional habits right away. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help obese women achieve a healthy or normal body mass index (BMI). High BMI is linked to the genetic tendency for high blood pressure, diabetes and insulin resistance.3 Even with a balanced and healthy diet, many women have trouble meeting the daily recommended intakes for certain vitamins and minerals. Prenate® Vitamins can help fill nutritional gaps and support mother and baby throughout pregnancy and through labor and delivery.
Prenate® Vitamin Family
This post is brought to you by the Prenate® Vitamin Family, a line of prescription prenatal supplements designed to enhance preconception, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition in women. Talk with your doctor about how taking a daily prescription prenatal or postnatal vitamin could help support a healthy pregnancy and postpartum wellness.