Preeclampsia is also known as pregnancy induced hypertension. It is a complication of pregnancy, which generally occurs after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. In this, the woman develops moderate to very high blood pressure, which can seriously jeopardize the health of her and the baby.
There is protein in the urine and excessive swelling in the body and feet also called as edema. Untreated preeclampsia can progress to full-blown eclampsia in which the woman may develop seizures and go into coma. If it is left untreated, it can also pose a risk to the growth of the baby or lead to premature deliveries.
How Common is It?
It has been researched that around 8% of pregnant women develop full-blown preeclampsia. It is more common in women carrying twins and women who are above the age of 40. If women have had high blood pressure before their pregnancies then they are automatically more at risk of developing preeclampsia. This necessitates their need for being monitored. Women who have had high blood pressure during their first pregnancies are also more at risk of developing preeclampsia.
Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy Preeclampsia
There are some definite signs and symptoms of preeclampsia that should send warning bells to your head.
Oedema is one of the first signs of high blood pressure during pregnancy. There is tremendous weight gain and water retention in the body especially on the hands, feet and the face. This could be an indication of possibly high blood pressure, which is why doctors regularly check blood pressure readings of women who suffer from atypical oedema.
Prolonged Swelling in Ankles
Mild swelling in the ankles occurs in almost all women. This happens especially if the woman has not had any rest. However swelling in the ankles that does not go after 12 hours of rest is a sign that the woman could be suffering from preeclampsia.
If the blood pressure is high, the woman will begin to experience splitting headaches at regular intervals. The headaches are so severe and consistent that they stop responding to painkillers and other medications.
Pain in the Abdomen
Pain and cramps in the abdomen is also a common sign of pregnancy-induced preeclampsia.
Rise in Blood Pressure
One of the most notable signs is the increase in blood pressure readings. Women who have a blood pressure reading of 140/90 are said to be candidates for preeclampsia. Their blood pressure then needs to be closely monitored and kept under strict control.
An increase in the blood pressure can cause vision disturbances or distortions, which are commonly felt. This includes double vision and blurred vision.
Excessive Weight Gain
If the woman starts to gain weight in excess of two pounds every week, this is a good sign that she maybe suffering from pregnancy induced hypertension or preeclampsia. This is a not a good sign and can pave the way for other pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes.
Abnormal Kidney Function
The kidneys become less efficient in their functioning. They start excreting more protein in the urine. The urine also becomes more concentrated and lesser in quantity. Abnormal functioning of the kidneys can then further lead to more complications in the body.
Management of Preeclampsia
One way by which preeclampsia can be managed is through quality prenatal care. Make sure your doctor knows your detailed medical history and previous episodes of preeclampsia if any. This can keep him alert to your symptoms. If the symptoms are spotted early on, they can be managed well.
One way in which it is managed is through bed rest and proper diet. A reduction in the intake of salt or a salt free diet will be recommended in most cases of preeclampsia. Along with this, the patient will have to eat foods, which are low on fat, and high on fibre as the correct food intake can manage blood pressure very well.
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Intravenous injections of magnesium sulphate can also be given to the patient especially if the blood pressure rises too high. If the preeclampsia is severe and there is an imminent threat to the life of the baby, an emergency c-section or delivery may be carried out to save both the mother and the child.
Exercise is vital to keep the weight of the woman in check. That is why most doctors recommend an active lifestyle for women who plan to have babies in the future.
If you are fit and active, your chances of developing gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure are very minimal. However, for this you will have to maintain an active lifestyle even during your pregnancy.
Intake of Vitamins and Minerals
It is also very important to ensure that your intake of prenatal vitamins and minerals is adequate to prevent the occurrence of preeclampsia and other pregnancy related complications. Speak to your doctor how you can take vitamins and minerals and lower your chances of developing high blood pressure.
Causes Behind Preeclampsia
It is not really known why women with normal readings suddenly develop high blood pressure during their pregnancies but research into this field has shed some light and insight into this pregnancy complication.
Women who are said to suffer from gum disease can also suffer from high blood pressure. This is because the bacteria and the infection can be transmitted from the gums to the placenta to produce symptoms of high blood pressure.
Blood Vessel Constriction
A constriction in the blood vessels of the woman can lead to a drop in the blood supply to vital organs like the kidneys, which explains the excess water retention, and the excess protein in the urine. Because of the constriction of the blood vessels, the blood pressure readings shoot up and this explains the rise of blood pressure.
Despite the research done in this field, several fatalities are reported owing to high blood pressure. This happens when the woman is not given quality prenatal care. With the right methodologies and treatment plans, fatalities can be controlled and curtailed.
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