Preeclampsia is a condition pregnant women develop and is marked by high blood pressure and a high level of protein in the urine. The women will often have swelling in the feet, legs and hands, a condition that appears in the second half of pregnancy.
If undiagnosed, preeclampsia can develop into eclampsia, a serious condition that can put the woman and baby at risk, and in rare cases, cause death.
The exact cause is not known and genetics can play a role. Preeclampsia is most often seen in first-time pregnancies, in pregnant teens and in women over age 40. Pregnant women should talk to a specialized doctor about other risk factors such as history of high blood pressure prior to pregnancy, history of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, obesity and more.
Although there is no cure it, there are ways to protect mom and baby by learning the symptoms and seeing a doctor for regular prenatal care. When caught earlier, preeclampsia can be easier to manage. Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Severe headaches
- Changes in reflexes
- Excessive vomiting and nausea
- Vision changes
A woman can also have preeclampsia and not have any symptoms. That is why it is important to see a doctor for regular blood pressure checks and urine tests.
The only cure for preeclampsia and eclampsia is to deliver the baby. A doctor can advise when to deliver based on how far along the baby is, how well the baby is doing in the womb, and the severity of the preeclampsia.
For mild preeclampsia a doctor may order bed rest as well as observation of fetal heart rate and frequent ultrasounds, medicine to lower blood pressure and blood and urine tests.