Paying Attention to Preeclampsia
Each May, the Preeclampsia Foundation recognizes Preeclampsia Awareness Month. If you are pregnant and not already aware of the warning signs of preeclampsia, this annual recognition gives you the perfect opportunity to learn more about this condition that affects up to eight percent of women during their pregnancy.
Preeclampsia typically starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and can result in major complications for both mom and baby, just one of the reasons that prenatal visits are so important.
The most common signs of preeclampsia include:
- High blood pressure, which can develop slowly or suddenly
- Excess protein in the urine as well as decreased output
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Severe headaches
- Upper abdominal pain
- Changes in vision
- Sudden weight gain
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the face or hands
“Since several of these symptoms, such as nausea, headaches and swelling, can occur in a normal pregnancy, it can be confusing for women. However, if you are experiencing severe pain, blurred vision or shortness of breath or are simply not sure about the severity of your symptoms, contact your doctor immediately,” said Dr. Amy Hammers. “Listen to your body and it something feels off, please let us know.”
If preeclampsia is diagnosed close to the baby’s due date, doctors will likely recommend delivering as soon as possible. In some cases, bed rest, reduced salt intake and more frequent checkups are an option for women with mild cases who are further from their due date.
While the exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, a placenta that doesn’t develop or function properly plays a role. Risk factors include first-time moms and moms carrying multiples, women younger than 20 and older than 40, those whose sisters and mothers had preeclampsia and women with high blood pressure prior to pregnancy.