By: Dr. Jared Harris
Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition that some mothers develop during pregnancy. It typically occurs after twenty weeks, but can occur during labor or soon after baby is born. Mothers with this condition usually have high blood pressure and a large amount of protein in their urine.
What are the symptoms of preeclampsia? Most mothers with preeclampsia don’t know they have it. Expecting mothers should be concerned about new headaches, vision changes, and right upper belly pain. If you experience those symptoms, please tell your doctor. These symptoms aren’t always normal in pregnancy and should be monitored
Is there a test for preeclampsia? Since this condition usually presents with high blood pressure and protein in the urine, blood pressure and urine checks are done. Blood tests are also done to see if other organs are damaged. These blood tests can look for a different form of preeclampsia known as HELLP syndrome, which stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count. For your doctor to say you have preeclampsia, your blood pressure should be greater than 140 over 90 with a lot of protein in your urine or problems with one or more of your organs. It is possible to have high blood pressure without preeclampsia, but it is important to monitor closely.
How is preeclampsia treated? The only true cure is to deliver your baby. Your doctor can determine if it is better to deliver your baby right away or wait. This depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy and how severe your preeclampsia is. If your condition is mild, thirty-seven weeks is a checkpoint for delivery of your baby. If you are not at this point, the decision to wait is recommended because it is important to give your baby time to grow. If your preeclampsia is severe, your baby will need to be delivered soon. Medicine may be used to lower your blood pressure if it is too high which decreases your risk of stroke. Some mothers with preeclampsia can also have seizures, and your doctor may prescribe medicine to prevent these during labor.
What can I do to prevent preeclampsia? There is currently no data to suggest that there is any way to prevent this disease; however, it is very important to go to all visits with your doctor. This will allow them find out as soon as your blood pressure starts to rise. At that time, they can do tests to see if you have preeclampsia. Your doctor may prescribe aspirin in the second and third trimester if you are considered high risk. You are high risk if you had preeclampsia before, your baby was born early, you are having twins, or you have high blood pressure outside of pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is a serious condition, but if caught early can be managed appropriately and your risk of having issues later decrease. It is important to follow up regularly with your doctor to ensure baby and you stay safe for a healthy delivery.