Fast Facts: Preeclampsia

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Test your knowledge about this pregnancy complication.

Question: What is preeclampsia?

Facts: Also known as toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia is diagnosed when women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy have high blood pressure combined with protein in the urine. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 2 to 6 percent of healthy, first-time moms are affected.

Question: Is preeclampsia dangerous?

Facts: If not treated properly, preeclampsia can lead to life-threatening complications for mothers, including eclampsia (a severe form of preeclampsia that leads to seizures), liver or renal failure, and cardiovascular issues. Preeclampsia can prevent the baby from getting enough oxygen and food in the womb, leading to low birth weight.

Question: What are the signs of preeclampsia?

Facts: The most common signs of mild preeclampsia — high blood pressure and protein in the urine — are typically detected by screenings at your obstetrician’s office.

Severe preeclampsia symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision, nausea and vomiting
  • Hand and facial swelling
  • Headaches
  • Infrequent urination

Question: Can I prevent preeclampsia?

Facts: Some risk factors for preeclampsia — such as having the condition in a previous pregnancy, pregnancy with more than one baby, first-time pregnancy, family history of the condition, and preexisting conditions including high blood pressure and autoimmune disorders — cannot be controlled. Women older than 40 or younger than 18 are also at high risk for the condition.

Women who are at a healthy weight, exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet may be at less risk, but there is no one definitive way to prevent preeclampsia. Talk with your physician about the steps you can take before, during and after your pregnancy to reduce your risk.

Question: How is preeclampsia treated during pregnancy?

Facts: Because preeclampsia can have serious health effects on both mom and baby, many physicians will either induce delivery or perform a cesarean section if the baby is developed enough. If the baby is not ready to be delivered, your obstetrician may put you on bed rest, prescribe blood pressure medication or require frequent office visits.

Sometimes, women with preeclampsia are admitted to the hospital to ensure close monitoring of their condition.

Question: Do I have to worry about preeclampsia after my delivery?

Facts: Preeclampsia can appear for the first time during delivery or within the 48 hours that follow. You may still have preeclampsia up to six weeks after you deliver. Nearly 80 percent of fatalities from preeclampsia complications are postpartum. Talk to your physician about what is normal to experience after delivery and warning signs of postpartum preeclampsia.

About the time you find your groove with your first trimester, it’s time for your second trimester. Learn more about our maternity services at Mimbres Memorial Hospital.