About 3.7 million babies were born in the United States in 2019. Although rates can vary, it’s estimated that about 5% of women deal with preeclampsia, a condition in which high blood pressure suddenly develops during pregnancy. That’s 185,000 women every year dealing with this serious condition, which can have fatal consequences if it’s left untreated
World Preeclampsia Day is May 22, which provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about this condition that affects pregnant women of all ages, shapes, and walks of life. In this blog, the health experts at Holistic OB/GYN & Midwifery in Passaic Park and Ridgewood, New Jersey, explain more about preeclampsia and how it can affect pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related condition in which a pregnant woman experiences a sudden rise in blood pressure as well as swelling in the face, hands, legs, and/or feet. These symptoms may also be accompanied by high levels of protein in the urine. Preeclampsia may develop as early as the 20-week mark, but most women don’t start to experience symptoms until after 34 weeks. In rare cases, the condition can develop in the first 48 hours after giving birth.
Preeclampsia can also be detected by decreased levels of blood platelets, apparent damage to the kidneys or liver, fluid in the lungs, or signs of brain trouble, such as seizures and/or visual disturbances.
Beyond the symptoms listed above, there are others that can also point to the development of preeclampsia. These include:
Some women do not experience any symptoms with the condition, but a simple blood pressure test during a prenatal appointment can lead to a preeclampsia diagnosis.
The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, but researchers believe errors in the development of the placenta may be a factor. Other potential causes include autoimmune disorders, genetic factors, and insufficient blood flow to the uterus.
Risk factors are wide ranging, especially because there’s no known way to definitively prevent the condition. However, women with the following characteristics may have a heightened chance of developing preeclampsia:
Obesity and poor diet are also linked to the development of preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is typically diagnosed during a prenatal appointment, a specialty of Holistic OB/GYN & Midwifery. Delivery, especially for women at or beyond the 34-week mark, is the best option. If delivery is not yet possible, blood pressure medications, corticosteroids, and/or anticonvulsant medications may be prescribed.
Prenatal visits are essential in this process. Untreated preeclampsia can progress to eclampsia, a potentially fatal condition. Eclampsia can cause seizures that can lead to comas, brain damage, and possible maternal or infant death. Thankfully, preeclampsia rarely becomes eclampsia with the health resources American women have access to.
To learn more about preeclampsia and prenatal care, book an appointment online or over the phone with Holistic OB/GYN & Midwifery today.