Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that impacts the placenta — the organ that provides nourishment to your baby throughout your pregnancy. Early on, your body forms new blood vessels to deliver more blood and oxygen to your baby. With preeclampsia, those blood vessels don’t work properly or don’t develop as they should.
Because preeclampsia is such a serious complication, we want to make sure you’re not left in the dark.
Here, our obstetric experts at The Center for Women’s Health share everything you need to know about preeclampsia.
We still don’t know what causes it
Preeclampsia is not a new disease, but still doctors and researchers aren’t exactly sure why some women get it and others don’t. Some point to risk factors such as:
- Preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
- Being pregnant with multiple babies
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
- Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- In vitro fertilization
- First pregnancies
- Family history
- Being 35 or older when pregnant
You’re also at an increased risk if it’s been more than 10 years since your last pregnancy.
It usually starts after 20 weeks
For most women who develop preeclampsia, symptoms start around the midpoint of pregnancy. Rarely does this condition show up in the earliest stages of a pregnancy.
The first warning sign is high blood pressure
High blood pressure is often the first warning sign of preeclampsia, but you may also notice severe headaches, changes in your vision, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting. Report any of these symptoms to us immediately.
We diagnose preeclampsia with a few routine tests
Preeclampsia is a difficult and frightening condition, but the good news is that we can detect it with a few simple tests. Everytime you see us for a prenatal appointment, we check your blood pressure — one of the first indicators of preeclampsia. We also test your urine for abnormal levels of protein that signal a problem.
Untreated preeclampsia can impact the baby
The high blood pressure that accompanies preeclampsia negatively affects your growing baby because it hinders blood flow to the placenta, resulting in malnourishment and growth and development problems.
Preeclampsia progresses very quickly
Once preeclampsia has set in, it can progress quickly and become eclampsia, a condition that causes seizures. It may also to lead to:
- Preterm birth
- Placental abruption
- HELLP syndrome
- Organ damage
- Cardiovascular disease
Each of these can prove harmful or fatal to both you and your baby.
Treatment typically involves delivery
There are treatment options for preeclampsia, but more often than not, we recommend delivering your baby early.
Preeclampsia doesn’t always go away after birth
Even after you’ve been treated or your baby has been delivered, you may still experience symptoms. It’s important that you seek emergency medical attention if you notice stomach pain, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, swelling of your hand or face, shortness of breath, and/or vision disturbances.
Looking for more straight-from-the-experts information about your pregnancy? We’d love to talk with you. Call to request an appointment at either our Hampton or Newport News, Virginia, offices today.