Most women with preeclampsia have healthy babies, but it can cause severe problems for you and your baby. Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause kidney, liver, brain damage, and death. It also may affect your blood clots and cause serious bleeding problems.
In rare cases, preeclampsia can become a life-threatening condition called eclampsia. Eclampsia is when a pregnant woman has seizures following preeclampsia. Eclampsia sometimes can lead to coma.
Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- High blood pressure
- Protein in the urine
- Severe headaches
- Vision problems, loss of visual fields, flashing lights, or being sensitive to light
- Pain in upper right abdomen
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sudden weight gain(2 to 5 pounds in a week)
- Swelling in your face
Many of these signs and symptoms are normal discomforts of pregnancy. But if you have severe headaches, visual changes or severe upper belly pain, call us or go immediately to the hospital.
What complications can preeclampsia cause?
By following up with your prenatal care we can help you avoid most complications of preeclampsia. Pregnant women with preeclampsia are more likely to have these complications:
- Low birthweight. Due to decreased blood flow to your baby.
- Premature birth. Birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Placental abruption. Separation of the placenta from your uterus, effecting the nutrients and oxygen your baby receives.
How do we diagnose preeclampsia?
We measure your blood pressure and check your urine for protein at every visit, since you can have preeclampsia without symptoms. If you have any concerns at your visit we may check blood work and evaluate your total protein loss in a day by checking the protein lost in a 24 hour collection.
How do we treat preeclampsia?
The only treatment for preeclampsia is delivery of your baby. Depending how far in pregnancy you are and how severe your preeclampsia determines the treatment.
Mild preeclampsia before 37 weeks. If you have mild preeclampsia before 37 weeks you may be able to stay home. On occasional we may have to keep you at the hospital for some time or until your baby is born.
If your preeclampsia gets worse we may have to deliver you. Delivery may be by cesarean section or vaginal depending on the severity of your preeclampsia and your delivery history. We may also check your baby’s health by:
- Ultrasound: Using ultrasound we may follow your baby’s growth and well being (biophysical profile) to evaluate the effects preeclampsia is having on you.
- Nonstress test: This tests checks how your baby is doing by monitoring your baby’s heart rate.
Mild preeclampsia at 37 weeks or beyond. Most of the time we will recommend delivery to give you and your baby the most optimal outcome and decreasing your overall risk.
Severe preeclampsia: You will need to stay in the hospital until your baby is born and we will deliver you depending on your blood pressures and clinical symptoms.
Can you deliver vaginally when you have preeclampsia?
Yes. We prefer to deliver you vaginally. The sooner we are able to diagnose preeclampsia the better chance we have of being able to deliver you vaginally.
What increases your risk of preeclampsia?
We do not know what causes preeclampsia, but listed below are some of the things that increase your risk.
- You had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy.
- It´s your first pregnancy
- You have a family history of preeclampsia.
- You have high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes , certain blood clotting disorders, lupus,or other autoimmune disorders.
- You´re pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more)
- You´re older than 35
- You´re African-American.
- You´re overweight or obese.
How can you reduce your risk for preeclampsia?
There´s no way to prevent preeclampsia. But if you’re overweight or obese, getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help lower your chances of having preeclampsia. You may also reduce your risk of preeclampsia by increasing rest, decreasing stress and increasing fluid intake.