May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month

pregnancy complication preeclampsia baton rouge

In recognition of Preeclampsia Awareness Month, we’re going to take a look at what preeclampsia is and some of the ways you can help spread awareness.

Keep reading to learn more about how you can get involved in Preeclampsia Awareness Month.

1. What is preeclampsia, and what are the symptoms

Preeclampsia, which is a rapidly developing disease characterized by elevated blood pressure and the detection of protein in the urine, affects at least 5-8 percent of all pregnancies.

Common symptoms of preeclampsia include swelling in the feet, hands, face, and eyes, headaches, sudden weight gain, high blood pressure, vision problems, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

2. What causes preeclampsia?

While the exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, it is thought to be related to an imbalance between a woman’s platelets (the blood cells that help with clotting) and her endothelial cells (the cells that line blood vessels). This imbalance leads to the formation of tiny blood clots in the vessels, which restrict blood flow.

3. How is preeclampsia diagnosed?

One of the things that makes the clinical management of preeclampsia so tricky is that it usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. Left untreated, it can lead to serious, even fatal, complications for both mother and baby.

Mothers

Your doctor will measure your blood pressure and check your urine for protein at every prenatal visit to diagnose preeclampsia.

Babies

Your provider may check your baby’s health with:

  • Ultrasound.  This imaging test uses sound waves to create a picture of your baby.
  • Non-stress tests. This test measures your baby’s heart rate in response to movement.
  • Biophysical profile. This test combines the nonstress test with an ultrasound.

Treatment will vary depending on how severe the preeclampsia is and whether you’re carrying one baby or multiples. Your treatment will also depend on how far along your pregnancy is.

4. How is preeclampsia treated?

Some common treatments for preeclampsia include:

Mild preeclampsia

Most women with mild preeclampsia after 37 weeks of pregnancy don’t have serious health problems. If you have mild preeclampsia before 37 weeks:

  • Your doctor will check your blood pressure and urine regularly. If you’re not in the hospital, your doctor may want to see you twice a week for checks. She also might request you take your blood pressure at home rather than in the clinic.
  • Your doctor or midwife may require you to keep track of your baby’s kicks. To track how often your baby moves, your health care provider may request that you do kick counts.
  • If you’re at least 37 weeks pregnant and your condition is unchanged, your physician may suggest that you deliver early. This may be a safer option for both you and your baby than continuing to pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife might give you medicine or break the amniotic sac (amniotic fluid) surrounding the fetus to induce labor.

Severe preeclampsia

For cases of severe pre-eclampsia, your doctor will probably ask you to stay in the hospital so that they can closely monitor you and your baby.

Your doctor may perform various tests to help them determine the best course of action, including ultrasound exams, nonstress tests, and biophysical profile testing. In some cases, especially in cases of early and life-threatening pre-eclampsia (before 37 weeks), your doctor may recommend that you deliver early to avoid further complications.

If you’re at least 34 weeks pregnant and your condition is stable, your physician may suggest that you have your baby as soon as your condition is stable. If necessary, they may induce labor or perform a c-section to deliver your baby. If you are not quite 34 weeks, but both you and your baby are stable, you may be able to wait to have your baby.

However, if you have severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, your doctor will likely recommend delivery as soon as possible. In these cases, blood transfusions or other treatments may be necessary to help stabilize your condition before delivering your baby.

5. What are the risks associated with preeclampsia?

complications of preeclampsia infographic

Image Source: Kansas Maternal and Child Health

Complications of preeclampsia may include:

  • Fetal growth restriction. Preeclampsia affects the arteries carrying blood to the placenta.
  • Preterm birth. Preeclampsia may lead to an unplanned preterm birth — delivery before 37 weeks.
  • Placental abruption. In placental abruption, the placenta starts to separate from the uterus wall before delivery.
  • HELLP syndrome. HELLP stands for hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count.
  • Eclampsia. Eclampsia is a rare complication that can occur in women with preeclampsia. It’s marked by seizures that don’t stop on their own.
  • Kidney disease. Preeclampsia may cause kidney damage and, in severe cases, kidney failure.
  • Liver damage. Preeclampsia may cause liver damage or, in severe cases, liver failure.
  • Pulmonary edema. This is a condition in which fluid builds up in the lungs.
  • Cerebral hemorrhage. Preeclampsia may cause bleeding in the brain.
  • Fetal or Maternal Death. In severe cases, preeclampsia can be fatal for the mother or baby — or both.

6. Can preeclampsia be prevented?

There is no way to prevent preeclampsia, but the risk of developing the condition can be reduced by :

  • Eating food bars containing the amino acid L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight before and during pregnancy.
  • Sticking to a prenatal nutrition plan, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of rest.

If you are at high risk for preeclampsia, your doctor may recommend regular monitoring throughout your pregnancy to detect any symptoms early.

While we can’t prevent preeclampsia, we can decrease the likelihood of developing the condition by reducing risk factors, maintaining a healthy weight, and following a prenatal nutrition and exercise plan.

If you are at high risk for preeclampsia, regular monitoring throughout your pregnancy can help to ensure that any symptoms are detected early. In some cases, medications or other treatments may be recommended to reduce the risk of serious complications.

However, it is essential to remember that preeclampsia can occur even in low-risk pregnancies, so it is vital to be aware of the signs and symptoms to seek treatment as soon as possible.

How can I help raise awareness about preeclampsia?

Even if you’re not in the 5-8% of women who experience preeclampsia, you can help spread awareness about the condition. Here are some things you can do:

  • Share this article on social media.
  • Talk to your friends and family about preeclampsia and what they can do to help raise awareness.
  • Donate to a preeclampsia awareness or research organization.
  • Volunteer for a preeclampsia awareness or research organization.
  • Participate in a preeclampsia walk or run.

We believe that by spreading awareness about this condition and encouraging people to get screened, we can help prevent unnecessary complications or deaths related to preeclampsia. Together, we can make a difference!

What does this mean for me?

Here at Look at Me 4D Imaging, we understand how important it is for you to have a healthy pregnancy, and we are here to support you every step of the way! If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

While our ultrasounds are elective and not necessary for your pregnancy, we believe that they can provide valuable information about your baby’s health and are happy to offer you our support. 

To learn more about our ultrasounds or to book an appointment, give us a call today!

We hope this information was helpful! Keep watching our blog, where we will be discussing various topics related to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting!

Thank you for reading!
The Look at Me 4D Imaging Team

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