Hypertension is a silent killer they say. Even if a woman doesn’t have high blood pressure before pregnancy, a form of hypertension can develop after 20 weeks of pregnancy which is known as pre-eclampsia.
It includes signs of damage to other organ systems, most often the liver and kidneys. Pre-eclampsia can be life-threatening and at times fatal for both mother and baby. This is one big reason why antenatal screening is very important.
What are the signs of Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia may sometimes develop without any symptoms. High blood pressure may develop slowly, or it may have a sudden onset.
The first sign of preeclampsia is commonly a rise in blood pressure and hence, regular monitoring of blood pressure is an important part of antenatal care. Blood pressure that exceeds 140/90mm Hg or greater documented on two occasions, at least four hours apart is abnormal.
Other signs and symptoms could include:
Excess protein in the urine or other kidney problems. This helps to differentiate from other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.
Upper abdominal pain, usually under the ribs on the right side.
Nausea and/or vomiting
Decreased urine output
Decreased levels of platelets in the blood
Impaired liver function
Shortness of breath, caused by fluid in the lungs.
Risk factors for Preeclampsia?
Previous History of preeclampsia. A personal or family history of preeclampsia
Age. The risk is higher for very young pregnant women as well as pregnant women older than 35.
Race. Higher in Black women .
The interval between pregnancies. Having babies less than two years or more than 10 years apart leads to a higher risk of preeclampsia.
History of certain conditions. such as migraines, diabetes, kidney disease, increases the risk of preeclampsia.
In vitro fertilization. Increases the risk of preeclampsia.
How is a woman with Preeclampsia managed?
The symptoms above are enough to make a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia. It is an obstetric emergency.
Other tests that can be done while trying to manage the emergency include:
As said earlier that preeclampsia is an emergency, hence the most effective treatment for preeclampsia is prompt delivery.
Other things that need to be put in place would be determined by the admitting physician, and depends on the gestational age of the child and other co-morbid conditions.
Complications of Preeclampsia.
If left untreated, the following could result:
Fetal growth restriction.
Abruptio placentae or Placentae abruption.
Eclampsia. This is when a pregnant woman begins to have seizures. It is potentially fatal.