Should I be worried if I have high blood pressure?
Preeclampsia is worrying, but if treated early, both you and your baby will be fine. It affects a small percentage of women every year. Preeclampsia is defined as a combination of high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine in a pregnant woman with no history of high blood pressure.
Signs of preeclampsia
The tricky thing about preeclampsia is that pregnant women who have it usually do not feel sick at all. Preeclampsia can strike in the second half of the pregnancy, from the 20th week onward, and below, you will find the symptoms to watch out for, in order to get treatment the earliest possible.
If you have swelling of the hands and face or eyes, or if you experience sudden weight gain over a couple of days, you could have preeclampsia, and should contact your doctor right away. If these symptoms persist, and you also have a migraine, belly pain on the right side, decreased urination or worse, decreased clarity to your vision, you need to get to the hospital immediately.
Causes of preeclampsia
The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, but possible causes could be that there isn’t enough blood flowing to your uterus, your blood vessels are damaged, your diet is not ideal, or there is an inherent problem in your immune system.
Risks of preeclampsia
While the majority of women with preeclampsia go on to deliver healthy babies, there are risks involved.
The earlier and more serious the preeclampsia, the greater the risks. With preeclampsia, there could be a lack of blood flow to the placenta which the baby relies on for oxygen and nutrients to grow healthily. In rare cases, there could be something called placental abruption, where the placenta actually separates from the inner wall of the uterus. This could be life-threatening for both mother and baby.
Something called the HELLP syndrome (acronym for hemolysis, which is the breakdown of blood cells, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count) could develop from preeclampsia. These combined conditions are life-threatening. If caught in time, the doctor can treat it. Thus, it is important that any symptoms of preeclampsia be checked out immediately.
In some cases, eclampsia develops. This is preeclampsia with seizures. However, this is rare, and less than 1% of pregnant women with preeclampsia develop eclampsia.
Because the best solution for preeclampsia is to have the baby delivered immediately, the baby could be born premature. If the fetus is not yet developed enough for a viable birth, the doctor will have to try his or her best to keep the preeclampsia under control until the baby is ready to be born.
Steps to minimize preeclampsia
The best way to prevent preeclampsia is to make sure you are physically fit before the pregnancy, which will go a long way to prevent any pregnancy complications.
You should also go for your regular check-ups so that your blood pressure and urine can be checked often, and if something is wrong, it can be diagnosed early and treated swiftly.
If you do get diagnosed with preeclampsia, follow your doctor’s orders strictly, so that both you and your baby can remain the healthiest possible.