PreeclampsiaPreeclampsia is a serious medical condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine caused by stress on the kidneys. Preeclampsia affects all the organs of the body and requires close monitoring of both mother and baby.

Risk Factors for Preeclampsia

It’s not clear why some pregnant women suffer from preeclampsia while others do not, but there are some factors that increase the risk of preeclampsia. Those factors are:

  • First time pregnancy
  • Previous history of preeclampsia
  • Chronic hypertension before pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes
  • Being 35 or over
  • Pregnancies involving more than one fetus
  • Immune disorders including lupus, blood diseases, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Being African American

Signs & Symptoms of Preeclampsia

High blood pressure and protein in the urine are the primary signs of preeclampsia. Some women experience few symptoms, even if the condition progresses. When symptoms are present, they include:

  • Persistent headache
  • Swelling of the hands, face and eyes
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Vision changes, including: blurred vision, light flashes, light sensitivity or temporary blindness
  • Right-sided upper abdominal pain

Women with preeclampsia require careful monitoring, which may mean hospitalization. If preeclampsia worsens, it can progress to eclampsia, a life threatening condition that leads to organ damage, seizure or coma.

Treatment of Preeclampsia

Having the baby is the only cure for preeclampsia, and symptoms usually disappear within 6 weeks of delivery. Depending on the health of both you and your baby, your OB/GYN may recommend induced labor or C-section once your baby reaches an appropriate stage of development.

Other treatment may include:

  • Bed rest
  • Increased fluid and reduced salt intake
  • Medication to lower blood pressure
  • Steroid injections to promote fetal lung development

During labor, it may be necessary for your obstetrician to give you medication to prevent seizures or lower your blood pressure.