Motherhood is the most precious stage in a woman’s life. During this blissful moment of life, one condition which every pregnant woman should take care of is Preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is common, but most of the time it is ignored. This short article by me, has answered some important but questions about preeclampsia, such as what it is? risk factors, symptoms, blood tests, prevention, and management.
What is Preeclampsia?
- Preeclampsia is a relatively common complication of pregnancy, affects around 1 in every 20 pregnancies.
- Preeclampsia is developed around the globe during pregnancy and 2.5 million preterm births are due to preeclampsia.
- Preeclampsia disrupts the flow of food and oxygen from the placenta to your unborn baby can put mother and your baby at risk.
- Preeclampsia is a major cause of premature death.
- When it starts, the condition begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Baby will be delivered early if preeclampsia threatens your health or baby’s health.
- Earlier the preeclampsia is diagnosed, the better your chances are of carrying your baby to term. The best course of action is to find out if you are at risk of preeclampsia.
- If preeclampsia remains untreated then it leads to seizures, known as eclampsia.
What are the risk factors of preeclampsia?
The exact cause of preeclampsia involves several factors. Experts believe that it starts in the placenta – the organ that nourishes the fetus throughout pregnancy. At the beginning of pregnancy, new blood vessels develop and develop efficiently to send blood to the placenta.
In women with preeclampsia, these blood vessels do not develop or function properly. They are narrower than normal blood vessels and react differently to hormonal signaling, which limits the amount of blood that can flow through them.
Other factors increase the likelihood of preeclampsia includes:
- Girls less than the age of 16 or Women over 40 years
- Being African American
- First time getting pregnant
- Separation from the first baby before 2 years or above 10 years
- Pregnancy with another partner rather than the father of their previous children.
- Hypertension before pregnancy
- If any history of preeclampsia
- A mother or sister who had preeclampsia
- History of obesity
- Carrying one child with preeclampsia
- In vitro fertilization
- History of diabetes, renal disorder, lupus, or atrophic arthritis
What are the symptoms of Preeclampsia?
It is important to remember that you simply might not see any symptoms of preeclampsia. If you develop symptoms, some common ones include:
- Frequent headaches
- Unusual swelling in your hands and face
- Sudden weight gain
- Change in your vision
- Right upper abdominal pain
“During a physical examination, your doctor may find that your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or more. Urine and blood tests also can show protein in your urine, abnormal liver enzymes, and low platelet levels.
At that point, your doctor may perform a nonstress test to watch the fetus. A nonstress test may be a simple test that measures how the fetal heart rate changes because of the fetus’s move. An ultrasound also can be done to see your fluid levels and fetal health.”
What are the tests done for Preeclampsia?
Testing for pre-eclampsia is suggested throughout pregnancy by measuring a woman’s blood pressure level.
Essentially, there are two tests:
The first test is a screening test called preeclampsia screen, which is done in the first trimester of pregnancy between 11 and 13.6 weeks. The test uses three markers to reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia later in pregnancy:
- Serum biomarker (PAPP-A, free beta hCG and PLGF),
- Biophysical markers (MAP-arterial pressure and UAPI-pulsatility index of a uterine artery) and
- Maternal history
This test helps to reveal women who may have a higher rate of pre-eclampsia later in pregnancy.
The second test, preeclampsia ratio, is to diagnose preeclampsia in hypertensive women after the 20th week of pregnancy. The test uses a ratio of two biomarkers. If the ratio is high, immediate delivery is recommended.
IMPORTANT: Ask your doctor to do the test between the week of 11-14.
What are the benefits of testing for preeclampsia?
Finding out the high risk of preeclampsia is the first step to delaying or preventing it. Delay preeclampsia helps prevent premature births and gives babies a healthy start to life. Being of low risk of preeclampsia, a pregnant lady can enjoy the pregnancy with greater peace of mind.
What does the test tell if there is a high risk?
The test tells you if the pregnancy needs to be monitored more closely. Doctors may also start treatment to delay or prevent preeclampsia.
Treatment of preeclampsia is always more effective if it starts early in the pregnancy.
Some recommendations for prevention include:
- aspirin in high-risk individuals,
- calcium supplementation in low-consumption areas,
- drug treatment of hypertension.
- Pre-eclampsia delivery of the baby and placenta is an efficient treatment.
- When delivery is suggested, it depends on how severe and pre-eclampsia is before pregnancy. Important medications, such as labetalol and methyldopa, may improve the condition of the mother before delivery.
- Sulfate may also be used to prevent eclampsia in people with serious illnesses. Bed rest and salt intake have not been found useful for treatment or prevention.