Signs and symptoms of Pre-eclampsia during pregnancy
High blood pressure is a problem for many people, but can be especially dangerous when a woman is pregnant, and can lead to life-threatening problems. High blood pressure affects all organs in the body, but when you are pregnant, you have an extra organ – the placenta, which connects you to your baby, so fetal problems can arise.
What is pre-eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia is also called Toxemia and is a complex disorder.
Preeclampsia definition (source: Medical Terms and Definitions Website): A condition characterized by a sharp rise in blood pressure during the third trimester of pregnancy. High blood pressure may be accompanied by edema (swelling), and kidney problems, as evidenced by protein in the urine. Although preeclampsia is relatively common, occurring in about 5 percent of all pregnancies and more frequently in first pregnancies, it can be a sign of serious problems. In some cases, untreated preeclampsia can progress to eclampsia, a life-threatening situation for both mother and baby.
Who is at most risk?
- First pregnancy
- Women who suffered from high blood pressure before they got pregnant.
- Overweight women.
- Women under 20 or over 40.
- Those who have suffered pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy, or if your mother or sister suffered pre-eclampsia.
- Women with medical history of diabetes, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
- Multiple pregnancy
From week 20 onwards in your pregnancy, a rise in blood pressure can indicate pre-eclampsia, and you should contact your doctor immediately. The doctor will take your blood pressure and likely do tests including urine analysis to look for protein.
What are the risks?
Preeclampsia can cause low birth weight and other problems for your baby because it can stop the baby getting enough air or food through the placenta. Preeclampsia causes your blood vessels to constrict (getting smaller), which reduces the flow to the placenta and other organs of your body.
Preeclampsia can develop into eclampsia – which can be very serious. It is characterised by convulsions, and can lead to disability or death.
In a few cases, preeclampsia will develop into something called HELLP syndrome (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelets). Women who develop HELLP syndrome usually have to deliver early to prevent serious complications.
What are the signs/symptoms of preeclampsia?
- Swelling in hands, feet and ankles.
- Puffiness around the eyes.
- Vision problems (light sensitive, blurred etc).
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tender upper abdomen, or pain.
- Weight gain
Some symptoms appear very much like normal pregnancy complaints, so do get checked up if in doubt.