Posts Tagged ‘high blood pressure’

Are you watching your soda intake?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

drinking sodaThere has been an interesting debate in the media lately about New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to regulate the size of sugary soft drinks.  He says he is doing it for health reasons. Well, he is right that there is an enormous (all puns intended) portion of the population that is overweight in this country, and that’s a concern for everyone.

Obesity leads to significant health problems. Being overweight or obese during pregnancy can cause complications for you and your baby. The more overweight you are, the greater the chances for pregnancy complications. You can read about many of the problems (infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes…) here.

It’s important to get to a healthy weight before you conceive. This way you’re giving your baby the healthiest possible start. Before you have a baby, take the time to get fit, exercise and eat healthy.  Cutting out the empty calories that do you no good is a good idea. It will be interesting to watch what happens in New York. What do you think?

Preeclampsia is not a thing of the past

Monday, January 28th, 2013

downton-abbey1Did 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
Severe headaches
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.

You can read one woman’s personal story here, and for more information about preeclampsia, go to this link.

Ask 9 questions before pregnancy

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Nine months of a healthy pregnancy is the best gift you can give your future baby. There are things you can do before you get pregnant to help give your baby a better chance of a healthy and full-term birth. Talk to your health care provider before and during pregnancy about you and your partners’ health and any concerns you many have. This will help you have a healthy baby.

Before getting pregnant, ask your health provider these 9 questions.

What do I need to know about:
1. Diabetes, high blood pressure, infections or other health problems?
2. Medicines or home remedies?
3. Taking a multivitamin pill with folic acid in it each day?
4. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy?
5. Smoking, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs?
6. Unsafe chemicals or other things I should stay away from at home or at work?
7. Taking care of myself and lowering my stress?
8. How long to wait between pregnancies? (Ask your health care provider what’s best for you.)
9. My family history, including premature birth? Premature birth is when your baby is born too early, before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

Special thanks to the celebrities Thalia and Heather Headley for helping the March of Dimes tell women about these 9 important questions.

Celebrating empowered mothers

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

pregnancyMay is Preeclampsia Awareness Month. Our guest post today is a personal story from Kelly Thomas of the Preeclampsia Foundation.

When I became pregnant I was determined to do everything right. I read all the popular books, took vitamins faithfully, and gave up diet soda.

Still, it was a difficult pregnancy. At 24 weeks, the swelling began. First it was my feet. Soon, I could no longer wear my wedding rings. Next, elevated blood pressure. My mother, a registered nurse at my OB/GYN‘s office, began to monitor me at home.

Every morning and every night she would come to my house to take my blood pressure and ask seemingly never-ending questions. I was annoyed. Not only was I sentenced to horribly boring bed rest, my mother wouldn’t get off my case.

One morning my blood pressure was extremely high. Her questions began. Yes, I had a stabbing pain in my upper right side. Yes, I had a headache that wouldn’t go away. Yes, my urine is a darkish black/brown color. Then she found I had pitting edema in my arm. She wanted me to go to work with her in order to see my doctor immediately. I, however, was not going to be the “whiney pregnant girl:” how embarrassing! I had an appointment at 1:00 pm that day; surely I would be fine until then.

But she used the, “I’m your mother tone,” so I went with her, begrudgingly.

When we arrived, the doctor immediately recognized the severity of my symptoms (thanks to mom’s couch triage), and I was sent to the hospital. I had never heard of preeclampsia and I did not understand the gravity of the situation. Thank goodness my mother did. She knew that her baby, and her baby’s baby, were in grave danger. Yet she kept her cool and made me get the help she knew I desperately needed.

By 1:00 PM, the time of my scheduled appointment, I was in an ambulance on my way to the closest hospital with a Level III NICU. Early the next morning, Carley was born at 33 weeks by emergency c-section, weighing 2 lbs. 15oz.

Weeks later I found the Preeclampsia Foundation and began to understand the severity of the disorder that had taken over my pregnancy. Most importantly, the Preeclampsia Foundation gave me the ability to become educated and the courage to try again. Though I developed preeclampsia with our son, Colt, who was born at 35 weeks, I had the knowledge to be my own advocate. With the encouragement of my Foundation friends, I wasn’t embarrassed to speak up when I felt something was wrong.

Today Carley is a feisty 5 year old. I too am healthy. However, the outcome could have been very different. Our story proves the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. I was ignorant as to what was happening to me. I didn’t want to be a complaining, overreacting, pregnant lady. I realize now how silly and dangerous my attitude was. If it hadn‘t been for my mom, the nurse, I would have waited until my appointment. By then, it may have been too late. My mom gave me life. My mom saved my life.

The pain of preeclampsia

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month. Our guest post today is a personal story from Meredith Drews of the Preeclampsia Foundation.

I am the mother of four—but I only get to kiss two of my children goodnight.  I have two boys, Thomas and Henry, and two daughters, Bridget and Elsie.  Thomas is five, plays t-ball, gymnastics and thinks Justin Beiber is cool.  Henry is two, adores his big brother, loves Mickey Mouse and is talking like crazy.  Bridget and Elsie died an hour after they were both born. They should be three years old.

It was my second pregnancy and we were shocked with spontaneous twins.  Once the surprise wore off, we adjusted to the idea and to the never-ending question: “Do twins run in your family?”
My twenty week ultrasound came and went… in this time we’d learned the twins were both girls; we’d just picked out names, the excitement was building, the reality settling in.  Two weeks or so after my “grand” ultrasound I went back to my OB for a check-up.  We did growth checks at each appointment and the girls’ heads had grown in two weeks, but not their stomachs.  My doctor was concerned and sent me home on bedrest for two weeks. I never made it that far.

A little more than a week later I called my doctor at 5 am in the morning.  I asked to come in and she said absolutely. I wasn’t swelling.  I thought maybe I had “floaters” in my eyes.  My urine was dark. I had bruising on my legs.  I’d had a nose bleed a few days earlier that I had trouble stopping.  There was no pain under my right ribcage, but I had had a pain in my right shoulder for nearly a week.

I knew preeclampsia could be a concern because of the visual disturbances.  My blood pressure was higher. I was spilling protein in my urine. My doctor sent me to the hospital, where things went from bad to horrific.  I was told I would be in the hospital at least a week. Then my doctor and MFM delivered the bad news: I had preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome (which I had NEVER heard of).  I needed to deliver right away.  If we chose to deliver cesarean, it would give the girls the best shot, but be very risky to me (with low platelets I could bleed to death), or, I could deliver vaginally and not attempt to save my daughters.

I had to call my husband over the phone with this news and we agreed the best thing to do would be to deliver vaginally, not risk all three of us and leave behind our son without his mother.  Every kick I felt inside me was gut-wrenching, knowing these little babies I’d tried so hard to keep safe were dying.  Unable to have an epidural, I felt every push of labor, heard all the crying in the room from doctors and nurses and my husband.  We heard a deafening silence from our baby girls.

We held our daughters in our arms as they died.

I couldn’t believe this had happened to me.  I still can’t.  I recovered in the hospital another five days and went home to my computer, searching for information and found the Preeclampsia Foundation.  I found information and support which helped me stay informed through my third pregnancy, just three months after we lost our girls.  In time, I have found a place and means to give meaning to my daughters’ one hour of life through the volunteer work I do.
I will never understand why this had to happen, but I someday hope to know what happened to cause my body to betray me like that.  I want to know how it happened and how others can prevent it.  Really… I want my baby girls back… but I’m very blessed to have my own health and my sweet, perfect two little boys—both born completely preeclampsia-free.

You can join us for a live chat about preeclampsia on May 11th at 2 PM EST. You’ll find us, and our guests from the Preeclampsia Foundation, on Twitter at #pregnancychat.

Early urine test for preeclampsia

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology in November claimed that a simple measurement of key proteins in a urine test can detect preeclampsia in women during the early stages of pregnancy.

Preeclampsia  is a potentially serious illness marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. If untreated, it can become a rare, life-threatening condition for both the mother and the baby called eclampsia. Eclampsia can cause seizures and, in some cases, coma. Fortunately, eclampsia is rare in women who receive regular prenatal care.

Although clinical signs of preeclampsia do not appear until later in pregnancy, researchers in the UK thought that changes in certain protein levels in the urine might be early signs of placental problems which can lead to preeclampsia.  The results of their study of 145 pregnant women identified a “urine protein fingerprint,” a panel of 5 peaks that predicted preeclampsia with a 92% accuracy rate.

Follow-up studies need to be performed to verify the accuracy of this method of testing, but these results are encouraging.  Early detection could lead to closer monitoring of a pregnant woman’s urine, for signs of rising proteins, and blood pressure. This might lead to controlling blood pressure with medications earlier in the pregnancy when necessary, possibly allowing for a longer and healthier pregnancy for both mom and baby.

(Renal Week 2010: American Society of Nephrology 43rd Annual Meeting. Abstract FC223. Presented November 19, 2010)

Are you getting enough sleep?

Monday, October 4th, 2010

tiredA consistent sleep schedule is good for all of us, but a new study published in the journal Sleep suggests that it may be extra important during pregnancy.  The study of 1,300 pregnant women showed that many women who get six or less hours of sleep or more than 10 hours per night have elevated blood pressure.  The study also showed a link between the amount of sleep a pregnant woman gets and preeclampsia, a serious disorder characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.

Dr. Michelle A. Williams, principal investigator and lead author, states, “If our results are confirmed by other studies, the findings may motivate increased efforts aimed at exploring lifestyle approaches, particularly improved sleep habits, to lower preeclampsia risk.”  She looks forward to more research and sleep studies of pregnant women to confirm her results.

Almost all pregnant women have sleep problems of one sort or another at some point.  If you are thinking about a pregnancy in the future, start fine tuning your sleeping habits now and get into a good routine.  Read our information on sleeping problems and what you can do to help get a better night’s sleep.

And if you have a new baby in the house, you’re probably getting your sleep in bits and pieces.  Go to bed early and consider trading off feedings (a spouse can give a bottle of breastmilk for one of the feedings).  And if you are one of many parents who continue to have sleeping problems once your baby starts sleeping through the night, realize that you are not alone.  Many parents have difficulty returning from short chunks of sleep to normal sleep patterns.  If you’re suffering from insomnia and exhaustion, don’t be shy about asking your doc to refer you to a behavioral sleep specialist.  Getting enough Zs is critical to maintaining good health.

Pregnancy: A window to your health

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

crystal-ballSometimes I wish I had a crystal ball to look into the future. Did you know that your pregnancy can be your crystal ball?

Last week, the television program Today had a helpful segment on how health issues in pregnancy can sometimes predict health issues in the future. For instance, if a woman develops gestational diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy, she may be at increased risk for those conditions after pregnancy.

Also, your mother’s pregnancy history may tell you about some of the risks you may face. So you may want to take some time to learn about your family health history.

Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Today we are pleased to have a guest post from Beth Frazer, a preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome survivor, and a volunteer with the Preeclampsia Foundation.

I remember the first time I heard the word “preeclampsia:” it was November 10, 2008, and I was blissfully pregnant with twins.  Although this was my first pregnancy, I am a practicing attorney with a propensity to research and so considered myself to be an “educated” patient.  I believed that everything was progressing perfectly.  I thought that my headaches, blurred vision, shortness of breath, sudden weight gain, and swelling were all a normal part of pregnancy.  In actuality, however, these were all signs that my kidneys and liver were shutting down, my red blood cells were destroying themselves, and my brain was swelling.

Fortunately, I was scheduled to have a routine OB appointment that day, at which time a urine test revealed that I was spilling protein.  Several hours later I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome,  a severe variant of preeclampsia, and was told that I was dying.  Two days later our beautiful twins were born, 20 weeks premature and too small to survive.  My doctor said that, had my OB appointment been scheduled even 48 hours later I would have suffered a massive seizure or hemorrhage.  I had no idea that my symptoms were actually serious warning signs.

I now know that preeclampsia, often described as a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy or by the old fashioned term “toxemia,”  is a known cause of premature births in the U.S. and is a leading cause of maternal and neonatal death.  It is the reason that a pregnant woman’s urine and blood pressure are tested at every OB appointment.  But I never heard of it before.  I was left physically weak, heartbroken, and completely confused.

I set out to learn everything I could about what had happened to me, and figure out whether it would happen again.  In doing so I found the Preeclampsia Foundation,  and I realized that I wasn’t alone.  I found tens of thousands of women have suffered situations similar to mine, most of whom had also been unaware of preeclampsia before their own diagnosis.

I learned that preeclampsia has no known cause, and has no known cure other than immediate delivery of the baby.  If it is diagnosed early enough, however, preeclampsia can often be managed, allowing the pregnancy to progress a bit further and result in better outcomes for both mother and baby.  I studied the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia.  I analyzed the different ways it presents itself, from the classic case of a pregnant woman whose blood pressure creeps up during her third trimester, to more unusual cases like my own.  I researched the latest tests and theories and medical developments.

And, finally, my husband and I met with our Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist (“MFM”), a high-risk OB, to discuss our future.  We discussed the risk factors for preeclampsia, which include a history of preeclampsia, particularly preeclampsia before the third trimester.  I underwent testing and learned that I might have blood-clotting disorders, which might also put me at risk for preeclampsia.  Nonetheless, my MFM felt that awareness and treatment of these risk factors would allow us to successfully manage a future pregnancy.

Armed with the blessing of my MFM and knowledge of preeclampsia’s signs and symptoms, I became pregnant again.  Those first few months were terrifying and anxiety-ridden.  My MFM monitored my blood pressure, blood work, and urine protein levels constantly, as well as the development of my baby– first every other week, then every week, then twice a week.    Being informed empowered me, and I was reassured knowing that I recognized those symptoms that needed to be reported and acted upon.

We all held our breath as slowly but surely milestones were met.  First, 20 weeks, when I previously developed preeclampsia, then 24 weeks: viability.  Then 28 weeks.  Then 30 weeks and 32 weeks, then 34. . .

And, urprisingly, preeclampsia never developed!  I sit here now with a beautiful baby boy snuggled up on my lap.  Born full term and healthy, he is a true testament to the power of preeclampsia education and awareness.

It is possible to have a healthy mother and baby after a preeclampsia diagnosis, or even after a preeclamptic pregnancy!   The key is to not only receive regular prenatal care, but also be your own advocate.  Know the signs, know the symptoms, know your body, and trust yourself.

Why your weight matters

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

scaleIt’s important to get to a healthy weight before you become pregnant.  If a woman is overweight or obese before pregnancy, she may face special health risks when pregnant (high blood pressure, preeclampsia or eclampsia, diabetes, problems during childbirth). Babies born to overweight or obese mothers may face their own challenges, too (risk of being born prematurely, certain birth defects, needing care in a NICU, possible obesity in childhood). Ask your doc or health provider for help in losing weight and getting to a safe starting point.

If you watch our video, you’ll learn what you can do if you’re an overweight or obese mom to protect your own health and the health of your baby.  “Pregnancy: The Overweight or Obese Woman” is part of the March of Dimes Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby video series.