Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia

blood pressurePreeclampsia 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.

It really is very important that all pregnant women are familiar with the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause kidney, liver and brain damage in the mother. It also may affect how the blood clots and cause serious bleeding problems.

And even today, in rare cases, preeclampsia can become a life-threatening condition called eclampsia. Eclampsia is when a pregnant woman has seizures following preeclampsia. Eclampsia sometimes can lead to coma and even death.

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia may include:
• Severe headaches
• Vision problems, like blurriness, flashing lights, or being sensitive to light
• Pain in the upper right belly area
• Nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness
• Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week)
• Swelling in the legs, hands, and face

Some women may not have any signs or they may confuse them with the normal discomforts of pregnancy. That is why it is so important to see your health care provider regularly and keep all of your prenatal care appointments. Your provider measures your blood pressure and checks your urine for protein at every visit. Because you can have mild preeclampsia without symptoms, it’s important to go to all of your prenatal care visits. And if you have severe headaches, blurred vision or severe upper belly pain, call your health care provider right away.

We don’t know what causes preeclampsia. But you may be more likely than other women to have preeclampsia if:
• It’s your first pregnancy.
• You had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy.
• You have a family history of preeclampsia. This means that other people in your family have had preeclampsia.
• You have high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, certain blood-clotting disorders, lupus or other autoimmune disorders.
• You’re pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more).
• You’re older than 35.
• You’re African-American.
• You’re overweight or obese (If you’re obese, your BMI is 30.0 or higher before pregnancy)

If you’re overweight or obese, getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help lower your chances of having preeclampsia.

The only cure for preeclampsia is the birth of your baby. But it can be treated. Treatment depends on how severe your preeclampsia is and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Even if you have mild preeclampsia, you need treatment to make sure it doesn’t get worse.

There is no way to prevent preeclampsia. But being aware of the signs and symptoms and making sure that you see your prenatal care provider regularly can help to detect it early. Next week, we’ll review what can happen to your baby if you have preeclampsia.

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