Eclampsia (prenatal period)

Eclampsia is diagnosed when a pregnant woman has tonic-clonic seizures along with high blood pressure and proteinuria. This serious complication of pregnancy may lead to the development of swelling in the brain or coma. Eclampsia may lead to premature labor, convulsions, or in rare cases, fatality.

Symptoms of Eclampsia

Signs of eclampsia include high blood pressure and proteinuria, with the inclusion of seizures and/or coma. Additional signs include swelling or puffiness in the face, around the eyes, or in the hands. Other signs to watch for are rapid weight gain, headaches, or visual disturbances. Upper abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, and decreased urine input are also indicators of preeclampsia.

Risk Factors of Eclampsia

With eclampsia there is a high risk of premature delivery, and the complications that may coincide with that for the baby. The placenta may not obtain sufficient blood and nutrients, hindering the baby’s growth. In addition, eclampsia may lead to maternal death due to intracerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain caused by the rupture of a blood vessel within the head). Permanent neurological injuries, such as blindness and paralysis may also result from this condition.

Treatment for Eclampsia

For relief of the immediate symptoms, the mother will have a tube inserted into the windpipe to assist with breathing. Anticonvulsants, such as magnesium sulfate may be administered to prevent further convulsions. In most cases the condition goes away once the baby is delivered. For this reason, the doctor may perform a C-section. If the baby is not close to term, medications will be given to allow the baby to develop further. Anti-hypertensive medications can manage high blood pressure, and may be a recommended treatment. A medical professional will closely monitor patients with preeclampsia, and who are at risk of developing eclampsia, regardless of the stage in the pregnancy when symptoms occur. Any delay in treating a patient suffering from eclampsia may lead to hypoxia, and resulting permanent neurologic injury.

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