Preeclampsia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and more

Preeclampsia occurs usually in the later part of the second trimester, in the third trimester until going to labor, and in the 48 hours after delivery. Preeclampsia consists of high blood pressure with high level of protein in the urine. Pregnant women will often have swelling in their feet, hands and face. If untreated, preeclampsia can turn into eclampsia which is a very severe phase during which coma and death may happen for the mother and baby.

What causes preeclampsia?       

Researchers have not yet determined the real causes of preeclampsia. It can be due to:

-          Poor nutrition

-          Insufficient blood flow to the uterus

-          Damage to the blood vessels leading to swelling and protein in the urine

-          Diabetes, chronic high blood pressure and auto immune disease

-          Obesity

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?

Symptoms may vary from one woman to another. Mainly preeclampsia symptoms occur suddenly. Call your doctor if you notice one of the following:

-          Hands and feet swelling

-          Puffing eyes

-          Sudden weight gain

-          Severe headache

-          Loss of vision or seeing spots

-          Nausea and vomiting

-          Dizziness

-          Abdominal pain

How is preeclampsia diagnosed?

It is very important not to miss any appointment with your doctor. He will check your blood pressure and the protein level in your urine. If your blood pressure is higher than 140/90mmHg, the doctor might keep you in his office for monitoring. One reading in the abnormal range is not sufficient to confirm preeclampsia. If he gets another abnormal reading with high protein level in the urine, he will suggest hospitalization.

In this case, further tests may be recommended as:

-          Blood tests to check the functionality of your liver and kidney.

-          Urine test collection for 24hours showing the quantity of protein lost.

-          Fetal Ultrasound to check the baby development and the amniotic fluid volume in the uterus.

How can preeclampsia affect my baby?

The earlier the preeclampsia appears during your pregnancy, the greater the risk is. Any woman who develops preeclampsia at term won’t suffer immensely since she will deliver her baby at term and both mother and baby will do fine.

In case of preeclampsia during the second trimester or early third trimester, a risk of premature baby may happen. Your doctor will recommend an emergency delivery. During preeclampsia, your blood vessels become tiny and constrict resulting in a high blood pressure and poor blood flow that can affect your organs such as your brain, kidney and liver. Hemolysis (HELLP Syndrome) which consists of destruction of red blood cells with high level of liver enzymes and low platelet count can occur. This syndrome is life threatening and dangerous. Also, the poor blood flow may cause poor baby development, decrease in the amniotic fluid volume and placental abruption.

In case of premature delivery, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to help your baby’s lungs to mature quickly. Usually your blood pressure will go down 1 to 2 days after delivery.

How can I prevent preeclampsia?

Researchers are not sure of what causes preeclampsia. There are lots of researches ongoing to define which treatment can prevent preeclampsia. Till now, a good prenatal care and visiting your doctor on time are the best ways to diagnose preeclampsia. It is always imperative that every pregnant woman knows the symptoms of preeclampsia. At the appearance of any sign, she should contact her doctor as soon as possible.

Is there any treatment for preeclampsia?

The best treatment of preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. In case of early pregnancy, your doctor will evaluate the level of preeclampsia.

In case of mild preeclampsia, you will be hospitalized and a close monitoring will be established to keep you and your baby healthy. If you are at term, delivery will be induced.

In case of severe preeclampsia, delivery is induced directly irrespective of the baby age. Corticosteroids may be administered to help your baby’s lung to mature. During delivery you may be given magnesium sulfate to increase blood flow and prevent seizure. Other treatments will be given to reduce the high blood pressure and treat convulsions if any.