- Preeclampsia and Eclampsia belong to hypertensive disorders during pregnancy
- It can be detected from high blood pressure along with other symptoms
- Delivering baby is the only curable treatment in this case
- Early diagnose of disease helps eliminate the complications
- It can also be present in post-partum phase too
Do you experience severe headache, high blood pressure and swelling of face and hands in your last trimesters of pregnancy? Watch out. It can be a pregnancy complication termed as Preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is the onset of high blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy. It can also be signs of disrupted functions of kidney and liver during the gestational period. If left untreated it can progress into Eclampsia and even causes death during pregnancy.
Preeclampsia occurs in 5 to 8 percent pregnancies across the world and second leading cause of maternal and fetal deaths. In India, the incidence of preeclampsia is estimated to be 8 to 10 percent among pregnant women.
According to American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, (ACOG) Preeclampsia can be diagnosed through persistent high blood pressure in the mother during the pregnancy or 4 to 6 weeks post-partum. It can also be detected from analyzing protein presence in mother’s urine.
It can also be diagnosed with the onset of new development of decreased blood platelets, changes in kidney or liver functions, fluid in the lungs, or signs of brain disorders such as seizures or blurred vision.
According to ACOG, the majority of preeclampsia related deaths can be eliminated through timely diagnose and effective intervention.
What are the symptoms of Preeclampsia?
High blood pressure is the major symptom of Preeclampsia. It can be a gradual rise in blood pressure or an onset. Diagnosing a blood pressure higher than 140/ 90mmHg on two occasions, at least four hours apart, will be considered an indication of preeclampsia in pregnant women.
Other than that the major symptoms include:
- Protein in the urine
- Blurred vision
- Pain in the upper right belly area
- Severe headache
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Sudden weight gain
- Swelling in the legs, hands and face
- Difficulty in breathing
There are several factors that cause preeclampsia in pregnant women while the major one is the abnormal placentation. In women with preeclampsia, the development of placenta would be troubled. The blood vessels in the placenta that nourished the fetus with enough supply of oxygen and food may become narrower.
Certain genes can also cause high blood pressure during pregnancy while immunity system and its improper functions may also lead to this pregnancy complication.
What are the tests to diagnose the complication?
- Blood test: it will be done at certain intervals to analyze the increased blood pressure.
- Urine test: It will be done to know the presence of protein and protein extracts in urine. Earlier it was set as a landmark for detecting preeclampsia, but recently it has been removed as preeclampsia can be present despite the protein level of urine.
- Fetal ultrasound: It analyzes the growth of the baby inside and amniotic fluid level.
- Biophysical profile: It records the heartbeat rate, fluid level, and baby movements to know the presence of any complications.
Who are at high risk for Preeclampsia?
A woman with an already existing medical condition like obesity and chronic hypertension is at high risk of developing preeclampsia. Other risk factors are:
- First pregnancy
The risk of developing preeclampsia is always higher in the first pregnancy.
- Advanced or too young maternal age
Women above 40 years and below 20 years during pregnancy are at higher risk of Preeclampsia.
- New paternity
Each pregnancy with a new partner increases the chances of developing this complication.
The chances of getting preeclampsia are higher on a woman who gets pregnant through in-vitro fertilization.
- Multiple pregnancy
Carrying twins or triplets or more also increases the risk of having preeclampsia.
Eclampsia is another complication that can also happen in post-partum. It occurs as a continuation of preeclampsia, one of the hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.
Once affected by Eclampsia, the woman experiences convulsions that last about one to two minutes and followed by a period of coma or confusion. It can be fatal and even cause the death of the mother. As per statistics, over 1 percent woman with Eclampsia dies worldwide.
Major signs of Eclampsia are:
- Blurred vision
- Severe headaches
- Vomiting, dizziness
Your family history of preeclampsia, preeclampsia during pregnancy, and pre-existing vascular diseases like hypertension increases the chances of getting Eclampsia.
How does it affect the baby?
According to Preeclampsia Foundation, Preeclampsia is the reason for about 20 percent of 13 million preterm births that occur worldwide. Preterm birth again leads to lifetime disorders like cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
Preeclampsia can also cause intra uterine growth restriction (IUGR). The condition affects the blood supply to the fetus causing malnourishment to the baby inside.
It is another complication derived from Preeclampsia. When the blood supply to fetus gets decreased, the baby’s body begins to cut down supply to kidney, liver, arms, etc. while preserving the blood supply to vital organs like brain and heart. This causes the production of too much of lactic acid, which is Acidosis.
Infant death is another worst part of Preeclampsia. The higher blood pressure and resulting low blood supply can cause infant deaths. Lack of proper facilities to treat preterm babies also increases neonatal death due to preeclampsia.
According to experts, the only cure for preeclampsia is delivering the baby and gets rid of the risk. In case of early onset of Preeclampsia, the doctor may closely monitor the fetal development and blood pressure.
Through proper medication and monitoring, the baby can be allowed to be mature enough to survive in the outside world. The doctor may provide medications to lower the blood pressure along with anticonvulsant medications.
Preeclampsia and Eclampsia may lead to C-section for delivery as a vaginal birth risks the health of both mother and the baby.
How can we prevent Preeclampsia and Eclampsia?
Calcium supplements during pregnancy help reduce incidences of preeclampsia according to some researches. Studies also show that low-selenium during pregnancy increases chances of preeclampsia.
Detecting and treating preeclampsia timely helps reduce chances of Eclampsia.
Though bed rests have been recommended in some cases, no foolproof evidence to substantiate its outcome have been available.