What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is one of the most common birth complications in the United States. In fact, 1 out every 20 women develop it.  Preeclampsia occurs when there is a  rise in blood pressure during pregnancy, and is often marked by signs of damage to organs. It generally starts around the 20th week of pregnancy. Preeclampsia should be treated seriously, as even a slight rise in blood pressure may lead to life-threatening conditions.

Preeclampsia Symptoms

There are a number of symptoms associated with preeclamspia,yet in some instances, it will develop without the mother noticing any symptoms at all. Consequently, it’s imperative to monitor blood pressure throughout pregnancy. Mayo Clinic suggests that blood pressure that’s 140/90 or higher is abnormal. 

Symptoms and signs to look out for include:

  • Breath shortness
  • Edema (swelling in the hands and face)
  • Nausea, sometimes accompanied with vomiting
  • Poor liver function
  • Excessive protein in the urine
  • Pain below the rib cage
  • Severe headaches
  • Blurry vision

Risk Factors Associated with Preeclampsia

There are quite a few risk factors that heightens a pregnant woman’s risk of developing preeclampsia, including:

  • Maternal age of 40 or older
  • Previous pregnancies with preeclampsia
  • Maternal obesity
  • Carrying more than one infant
  • A pregnancy with a different partner than previous pregnancies
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Lupus

Preeclampsia Complications

When preeclampsia occurs, both mother and infant are at risk for serious health complications, including:

  • Placental abruption
  • Eclampsia (preeclampsia accompanied with seizures)
  • HELLP ( hemolysis elevated liver enzymes)
  • Poor blood flow to the placenta, which can result in infant oxygen deprivation
  • Increased risk of developing heart and blood vessel diseases

Is There a Cure for Preeclampsia?

There is not currently a cure for preeclampsia, aside from delivery. If you have preeclampsia, the best treatment is usually relegated to a lack of strenuous activity, often bed rest. Medications, such as antihypertensives, corticosteroids, and anticonvulsants may also be prescribed.

In severe cases of preeclampsia, the mother will often be scheduled for a caesarian section. Mothers who are diagnosed with preeclampsia towards the end of pregnancy, when the infant is viable, may have induced labor if a C-section is not necessary. This is so that the child stays as healthy as possible and doesn’t go into fetal distress.  If labor isn’t treated carefully, the child can develop problems with thought patterns, and may have these special needs well into childhood.

How is Preeclampsia Related to Cerebral Palsy?

There is still much about cerebral palsy that doctors don’t quite understand. However, studies indicate that mothers who have preeclampsia are more likely to have children with cerebral palsy if the infant is born prematurely. In some cases, preeclampsia  causes mothers to go into labor early, delivering babies that are born at 37 weeks or earlier.

Doctors don’t quite know if preeclampsia causes cerebral palsy, but research suggests that mothers who delivered babies between the gestational ages of 32 and 36 weeks are  almost five times more likely to have babies who develop cerebral palsy.

Preventative Tips

Although there isn’t a cure yet for preeclampsia, there are few preventative tips that can help mothers control the risk of developing it, including taking a daily low-dose aspirin and taking calcium supplements daily. In addition, it’s always a good idea to limit salt intake during pregnancy and to eat as healthy as possible.

However, before taking any medications and vitamins, always consult your physician beforehand.