Family Planning

Ask Sofia: Is it possible to prevent preeclampsia in a second pregnancy?

Preeclampsia – a condition that only occurs during pregnancy – can be life-threatening for both mom and baby. Typically leading to high blood pressure that can cause seizures and strokes as well as organ failure, preeclampsia affects about five to eight percent of first-time moms.

“If you were diagnosed with preeclampsia in your first pregnancy, it is very understandable that you would be concerned about getting pregnant again,” said Dr. Amy Hammers. “Women who have preeclampsia in a first pregnancy are at an increased risk of developing it again, but it is impossible to predict. That’s why we monitor second-time moms very closely throughout pregnancy to support the health of both mom and baby.”

While much is still unknown about preeclampsia, women are more likely to develop it if: they are first-time moms or have had it in a previous pregnancy, family history of preeclampsia in a mother or sister, chronic high blood pressure, obesity, history of organ transplant, pregnancy with multiples, diabetes and maternal age below 20 or over 40. All of these risk factors come into play for both first and subsequent pregnancies.

Preeclampsia typically develops in the third trimester, but it can occur as early as 20 weeks. Most moms are fine within a few weeks post-delivery, but there is a condition called postpartum preeclampsia with the same serious set of conditions, and women should contact their doctor immediately if they have any concerns after childbirth.

When you’re thinking about expanding your family, talk with your doctor early and often, sharing your concerns and risk factors prior to getting pregnant the second time, if possible. You can get a physical that evaluates your blood pressure and kidney function, focus on getting your weight to a healthy level and stabilizing your blood sugar if you have insulin-dependent diabetes before becoming pregnant to manage those risk factors.

Then, during pregnancy, pay close attention to your body, including issues such as constant headaches, severe swelling, vision changes or stomach pain, and call your doctor immediately with any concerns. Your doctor may recommend a low dosage aspirin or calcium supplements as well.

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