Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure, elevated levels of protein in the urine (proteinuria) indicating kidney damage, and potential damage to other organs. It typically occurs in women who previously had normal blood pressure and usually emerges after the 20th week of pregnancy.
If left untreated, preeclampsia can have serious, and even fatal, consequences for both the mother and the baby.
In many cases, delivering the baby early is recommended. The timing of delivery depends on the severity of preeclampsia and the gestational age of the baby. Prior to delivery, treatment for preeclampsia involves close monitoring and the administration of medications to reduce blood pressure and manage complications.
Preeclampsia can also develop after the birth of the baby, a condition referred to as postpartum preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is characterized by elevated blood pressure, proteinuria, and indications of organ damage. It is possible to have no noticeable symptoms. Often, the first signs of preeclampsia are detected during routine prenatal visits with a healthcare provider.
In addition to high blood pressure, preeclampsia may present with the following signs and symptoms:
- Presence of excess protein in urine (proteinuria) or other indications of kidney problems.
- Reduced platelet levels in the blood (thrombocytopenia).
- Increased liver enzymes suggesting liver issues.
- Intense headaches.
- Changes in vision, such as temporary vision loss, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light.
- Difficulty breathing caused by fluid accumulation in the lungs.
- Upper abdominal pain, typically beneath the right ribcage.
- Nausea or vomiting.
During a healthy pregnancy, weight gain and swelling (edema) are common. However, sudden weight gain or the abrupt onset of edema, particularly in the face and hands, may be indicative of preeclampsia.
When to seek medical attention:
It is important to attend regular prenatal visits where your healthcare provider can monitor your blood pressure. If you experience severe symptoms such as intense headaches, blurred vision, visual disturbances, severe abdominal pain, or significant shortness of breath, it is crucial to contact your healthcare provider immediately or visit an emergency room.
Given that headaches, nausea, and general discomfort are common during pregnancy, distinguishing between normal pregnancy symptoms and potential serious issues can be challenging, particularly for first-time pregnancies. If you have concerns about your symptoms, it is advisable to reach out to your doctor.
Content Source: www.mayoclinic.org