Pre-eclampsia (prenatal period)

Preeclampsia occurs when a pregnant mother’s blood pressure is greater than 140/90 with “proteinuria” (excess protein in the urine). Preeclampsia is considered severe when the blood pressure is greater than 160/110, and the mother is exhibiting other signs and symptoms. Preeclampsia is most often seen after 37 weeks of pregnancy, but it can occur anytime during the second half of the pregnancy.

What are the Symptoms of Preeclampsia?

Swelling or puffiness in the face, around the eyes, or in the hands may indicate the presence of Preeclampsia. Other symptoms are rapid weight gain, headaches, and visual disturbances. Upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and decreased urine output are also signs of preeclampsia. If the pregnant mother’s blood pressure becomes too high, it can disrupt the flow of the blood to the baby. Disruption of blood flow to the baby can lead to hypoxia and cause injury to the baby’s brain.

What Risk Factors Indicate Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs only during pregnancy. The risk will be highest during a first pregnancy. Obesity also increases the risk of preeclampsia. Chronic hypertension, certain blood clotting disorders, and diabetes are additional risks factors. When a pregnancy includes two or more babies, there is a possibility of preeclampsia. The age of the mother can also be a factor, this condition is more likely to occur when the mother is either younger than 20 or older than 40.

How is Preeclampsia Diagnosed?

There is no test to predict preeclampsia, but there are tests that a can assist in detecting the condition such as taking a patient’s blood pressure and collecting a urine sample. Blood pressure changes throughout the day, so there will be more than one reading to confirm the condition. Prolonged urine collection tests are given over a period of at least 12 hours. The test is used to identify how much protein is being lost in the urine, which can also indicate the severity of preeclampsia.

How is Preeclampsia Treated?

Delivery of the baby is the only cure for preeclampsia, but if the pregnancy is not near the end, bed rest may be recommended to lower blood pressure. Depending upon the severity of the preeclampsia, hospitalization may be required to assess the mother’s condition. Antihypertensive medications may be prescribed to lower blood pressure until the baby is born. Corticosteroids are medicines that help a baby’s lungs mature, and are also used in cases of severe preeclampsia. When preeclampsia is diagnosed close to the time of delivery, it may be recommended that labor is induced or a C-section is performed. Frequent visits to a health care professional will likely be necessary if this condition is diagnosed, and are necessary to monitor the condition of both the mother and baby.

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