Did you watch Downton Abbey? What a shocker! But did you know that losing a mother and/or baby to eclampsia resulting from preeclampsia still happens today?
Preeclampsia is a condition that happens only during pregnancy (after the 20th week) or right after pregnancy. It’s when a pregnant woman has both high blood pressure and protein in her urine. We don’t know what causes it and we don’t know how to prevent it.
Most women with preeclampsia have healthy babies, but it can cause severe problems for moms. Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause kidney, liver and brain damage. It also may affect how the blood clots and cause serious bleeding problems. In rare cases, preeclampsia can become a life-threatening condition called eclampsia that includes seizures following preeclampsia. Eclampsia sometimes can lead to coma and, in Lady Sybil’s case, death.
It has been nearly 100 years since the time of the story portrayed on Downton Abbey, yet to this day there still is no cure for preeclampsia except immediate delivery of the baby, often via cesarean section. Preeclampsia can turn into full eclampsia fairly quickly and it’s important that medical professionals keep an eye out for signs.
Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:
High blood pressure
Protein in the urine
Vision problems, like blurriness, flashing lights, or being sensitive to light
Pain in the upper right belly area
Nausea or vomiting
Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week)
Swelling in the legs, hands, and face
It’s true that many of these signs and symptoms are normal discomforts of pregnancy. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to receive regular prenatal care. If you’re pregnant and have severe headaches, blurred vision or severe upper belly pain, call your health care provider right away.