Preeclampsia and Its Implications

Pregnancy is as exciting as it is nerve-wracking, what with all the changes you get to go through. With so much to adapt to, it’s important that you also understand conditions that you may or may not experience to help you manage or avoid them. One such condition is preeclampsia. Let’s delve deep into what this condition is and its implications.

What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition that only occurs during pregnancy, precisely after twenty weeks. It is often characterized by the following symptoms:

  • High blood pressure
  • Proteins in the urine

Most times, preeclampsia is precluded by gestational hypertension. Note that, while hypertension during pregnancy does not necessarily mean that you have preeclampsia, more often than not, it usually is an underlying sign of another issue. Statistics say that preeclampsia affects 5-8% of pregnancies.

Risk Factors that Make You Susceptible to Preeclampsia

If you exhibit any of the following factors during pregnancy, you may be at risk of developing preeclampsia:

  • If you are a first time mother
  • If you have had a prior experience with gestational hypertension or preeclampsia
  • If anyone from your maternal side (mother and sisters) had preeclampsia
  • If you happen to be carrying multiple babies
  • If you are younger than 20 years and older than 40years
  • If you have ever had hypertension or kidney disease prior to pregnancy
  • If you are obese or have a BMI of 30 or more

Symptoms of Early and Progressive Preeclampsia

Early or mild preeclampsia is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • High blood pressure
  • Fluid retention (edema)
  • Protein in the urine

Progressive or severe preeclampsia is characterized by:

  • Blurred vision
  • Severe and frequent headaches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Inability to tolerate bright lights
  • Little urine output
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tendency to bruise easily

In case you experience very severe headaches, blurred vision, abdominal pain, and or urinating infrequently as before, visit your doctor immediately.

How Will You Know that You Have Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is usually detected during pregnancy. Therefore, during each antenatal clinic, your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure and urine levels and may order a couple of blood tests that may show whether you have preeclampsia or not.

Your doctor may also order tests such as:

  • Kidney function test
  • Blood clotting function test
  • Ultrasound to check your baby’s growth
  • Doppler scan to measure the efficiency of blood flow to the placenta

How Can Preeclampsia Affect Your Baby?

Preeclampsia may prevent enough blood from getting to the placenta, yet we know that it is from the blood in the placenta that your baby will get oxygen and food. This ends up depriving them of oxygen and food. As a result, your baby is born with a low birth weight. On the brighter side, you may still deliver a healthy baby if preeclampsia is detected early, and treated with regular prenatal care.

How Can Preeclampsia Affect You?

In the event that preeclampsia is not detected or treated early and properly, it may result in acute renal and liver failure, as well as life-threatening cardiovascular issues.

How You Can Prevent Preeclampsia

While preeclampsia cannot be prevented, there are a couple of contributing factors to hypertension that can be controlled, and others that cannot be controlled. All the same, sticking to the dietary restrictions and exercise routine given by your doctor, will go a long way.

  • Get enough rest
  • Avoid excessive consumption of salt in your diet
  • Drink lots of water, preferably 6 to 8 glasses of water daily
  • Avoid lots of junk and fried foods ( read more on foods to avoid)
  • Exercise often, and in regular intervals
  • Elevate your feet several times during the day
  • Steer clear of alcoholic drinks as well as caffeinated drinks.
  • Take prescribed nutritional supplements.

How is Preeclampsia Treated?

Preeclampsia treatment is pegged on how close you are to your due date. In the event that you are close to your delivery date, and the baby is developed enough, your doctor will suggest that you deliver the baby as soon as possible.

However, if you have mild preeclampsia, and your baby is not fully developed, your doctor may suggest the following:

  • Increase your prenatal checkups
  • Rest a lot. While doing this, lie on your left side to take the weight of the baby off your major blood vessels.
  • Take at least 8 glasses of water in a day
  • Consume less salt in your food and snacks
  • Include more protein your diet

On the other hand, if you have severe preeclampsia and you are not close to your delivery date, your doctor may:

  • Treat you with hypertensive medication
  • Recommend lots of bed rest
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Dietary changes to accommodate more proteins


#Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

#Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: webmd, americanpregnancy, mayoclinic

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