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What Is Pre-eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that affects 1 in 20 pregnant women. The condition which mostly occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy is characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine as well as swellings in the legs, feet and hands. The symptoms of pre-eclampsia can range from mild to severe and can come earlier or immediately after delivery.

The exact cause of preeclampsia isn’t known yet although many medical professionals think it happens when a woman’s placenta fails to work the way it should. Some experts have also attributed pre-eclampsia to poor nutrition during pregnancy and high body fat. There are also pieces of evidence that genes, immune system problems as well as a lack of blood flow to the uterus could play a role in pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia may present no symptoms, even though its early signs include high blood pressure (hypertension) and blood in the urine (proteinuria). However, as it continues to progress patients may start experiencing fluid retention (edema) which is always characterized by swellings in their ankles, feet, face and hands. Meanwhile the later symptoms of pre-eclampsia include:
• Severe headaches
• Malaise
• Blurry vision
• Shortness of breath
• Severe nausea and vomiting
• Sudden weight gain
• Below the rib pains on the right side
• Impaired liver functioning
• A reduction in urine output
• Decrease in platelets in the blood

Some pregnant women have higher chances of developing pre-eclampsia than others. Some of the risk factors associated with the condition include;
• Being older than 40
• Being pregnant for the first time;
• Getting pregnant again less than 2 years apart or more than 10 years apart;
• A history of preeclampsia;
• High blood pressure before pregnancy;
• Being pregnant with multiple babies;
• A family history of preeclampsia;
• Certain conditions such as obesity, kidney disease, diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis;
• Being pregnant via In-vitro fertilization (IVF).

Pre-eclampsia can rarely result in complications for women who have been taking their antenatal seriously. However, if the condition is not diagnosed for some reason, it can result in complications such as eclampsia, HELLP syndrome (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes and Low Platelets), placenta abruption, poor blood flow to the placenta, and cardiovascular diseases. It can also result in long term consequences for the developing baby.

Pre-eclampsia can only be cured when the baby is born. That said, certain medications can be used to treat some of the symptoms of the condition. Meanwhile, the doctor may also decide to induce labor, depending on the stage of the pregnancy or advise the patient to have plenty of rest. If you are experiencing symptoms of pre-eclampsia, do speak to your doctor as soon as possible for immediate medical care.

1) Everything you need to know about preeclampsia. Medical News Today Website. Last accessed April 22, 2021.

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