Preeclampsia is an illness that only affects women in pregnancy. Many women may not even know that they have it and it may cause them no problems. However this is a condition that must be taken seriously as it can have very severe consequences for both the mother and the baby. When preeclampsia turns bad it can make the baby and the mother very ill and specialist care is often required. This article looks at the latest and best research to give you the most up to date information on preeclampsia.
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Pregnant women have an organ that forms and contains the baby known as the placenta. Most doctors believe that preeclampsia begins when the placenta does not grow in the correct way. This will lead to complications for both you and the baby. Often there will not be enough nutrients transferred from you to the baby and if this is the case the placenta can send bad chemicals into the bloodstream of the mother. The chemicals that are sent can cause the blood pressure of the mother to be high; it can also cause problems with the kidneys as well as swelling and a whole host of other problems.
One of the first signs of preeclampsia is blood pressure that is high; however not all women who have high blood pressure in pregnancy have preeclampsia. It is most common for preeclampsia to begin near the end of pregnancy, but it can begin anytime after about 20 weeks of being pregnant. In cases of mild preeclampsia all that you may require is a few extra checkups and tests. If it is more serious than that you may need to remain in hospital until after the baby is born and in some cases you will be required to have the baby early. It is not known for sure what causes preeclampsia; however there are certainly things that can put you at a higher risk of getting it.
If you get pregnant when you are over forty your risk will be higher, also if you are overweight, have diabetes, have a family history, are carrying more than one baby, or you have had preeclampsia in other pregnancies then you will be at a higher risk.
Preeclampsia is not really known to cause symptoms unless it gets really quite serious. There are early signs that can be picked up in your checkups and so attending these appointments is really important. High blood pressure is one of the symptoms of preeclampsia. There are also tests that will show that you have more protein in your urine than is normal. You may also notice that you get swelling in your face, feet, or hands. However this may be hard to notice as you tend to get swelling in pregnancy anyway.
Having preeclampsia may also mean that your baby is not growing at the rate that it should be. This can be identifies on a scan known as an ultrasound scan. When preeclampsia turns bad it can cause serious health problems and so you will need to keep an eye out for signs that it could be getting worse. Some of these signs include bad pain just under the ribs, flashing light in front of your eyes, double vision, blurred vision, bad headache, or vomiting. If you notice any of these or are worried for any particular reason you should contact your midwife or doctor right away.
Prevention – Is it possible?
There are some treatments that can reduce ones risk of getting preeclampsia. However these are not standard treatments and tend to only be used if you are deemed to be at risk. It should be noted that you can actually buy these treatments yourself if you think that you would like to be protected from preeclampsia. However you must first discuss this with your doctor of midwife. You can take a low dose of aspirin in order to reduce your risk of getting preeclampsia. If you are unable to take aspirin then there are similar drugs that you may be able to try. Another option is to take calcium supplements in order to reduce your risk. These are particularly useful if you do not get much calcium in the foods that you generally eat. There is no evidence that either of these treatments is dangerous to either the mother or the baby.
If you suffer from preeclampsia then it is most likely that your doctor will offer you medications that will aim to lower your blood pressure. In many cases you may be admitted to hospital so that you can rest until your baby is born. In some cases you may be required to have your baby early. The reason for this is that preeclampsia does not get any better until the baby is born.
High blood pressure that occurs in preeclampsia can be treated by a variety of drugs that are used to lower blood pressure. Drugs that are used to lower the pressure include calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, and drugs that are used to relax the blood vessels. There is much evidence to say that these drugs do lower the blood pressure; however it is unknown at this stage whether or not they can stop you from getting severe preeclampsia.
Unfortunately there are side effects that are associated with these medications and these most commonly include headaches and upset stomachs. If you have to take a beta blocker then this may mean that the baby does not grow as fast as it is supposed to. Most doctors will recommend that you have lots of sleep and rest while you are pregnant and have high blood pressure. Regular checkups will certainly be required and it is very important that you attend these. There are some doctors that have tried to use vitamin C and E supplements to treat women with preeclampsia; however it is unknown whether these work or not.
Treating severe preeclampsia!
If you get preeclampsia and it turns bad then you will need to be cared for in a hospital. In some cases you will need to have your baby early and if it is to early to deliver baby then treatment will be required until you and the baby are ready. Drugs will be given to lower the blood pressure and if your blood pressure is extremely high then these will be given as injections. If you get bad preeclampsia then you can get seizures and these can be dangerous for you and your baby. Your doctor may give you a drug known as magnesium sulphate and this will prevent the seizures from coming on. This medicine is either given via an injection or via an IV drip. If the doctors think that you will need to have the baby early then there are two choices in order to do this. One of these will involve you being given various drugs to make you go into labour early. This is something known as an induction of labour. The second option is to have an operation known as a caesarean section and this is more common in women who are less than 32 weeks pregnant. The reason for this is that it is harder to start up labour that early in pregnancy. You may require a medicine known as a steroid if your baby needs to be born early. This medicine helps the baby to develop faster so that they can be read for the world earlier.
When you are said to have preeclampsia then you can be certain that it will not get better until your baby is born. If you get this condition closer to the end of your pregnancy then you may be able to go on and deliver the baby naturally. However in many cases you will be required to have your baby early. If you get preeclampsia when you are 34 weeks pregnant or later then your baby will most likely be delivered as soon as the doctor thinks that it is safe to do so. Preeclampsia that occurs earlier than this will require that you are admitted and cared for in hospital until the baby is born. It is certainly possible for you to get serious health problems as a result of getting preeclampsia. Some of the things that can happen include liver problems, kidney problems, heart problems, lung problems and seizure activity.
Fortunately these problems associated with preeclampsia are quite rare and in many cases they can be picked up before they cause harm to the baby. Most women who have suffered from preeclampsia will return to normal health following delivery of the baby; however you may need to recover in the hospital for a few days. Once you have suffered from preeclampsia it is more likely that you will have it again in a future pregnancy than someone who has not had it before. However the good news is that most people who have had it before will not get it again. If you have had preeclampsia then you must be cared for by a specialist doctor in your next pregnancy and you will have more checkups than usual. You must attend these checkups as preeclampsia can be a very serious condition.