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Everything You Should Know About Preeclampsia

Everything You Should Know About Preeclampsia

If you’re pregnant, it pays to know about the potential problems that could crop up so you know how to prevent them, what to look for, and when to call your doctor. May 22 is World Preeclampsia Day, and it’s a perfect opportunity to increase your awareness of this life-threatening complication.

At LUNA MED SPA & WASHINGTON OB-GYN, P.A., we offer comprehensive obstetric care for pregnant women of all ages throughout San Antonio, Texas. We take prenatal care seriously and encourage our moms-to-be to educate themselves about every aspect of pregnancy, including the likely and not-so-likely problems. 

Here, Dr. Jerome Washington, our board-certified obstetrician, explains preeclampsia and what it could mean for your baby and you if it develops.

Understanding preeclampsia

High blood pressure poses a problem whether you’re pregnant or not. But if it occurs during pregnancy — a condition called preeclampsia — it can lead to some serious problems very quickly, including liver damage, bleeding problems, placental abruption, kidney failure, and seizures. 

Not all types of high blood pressure during pregnancy are equally dangerous. Here’s a look at the various types of hypertension disorders of pregnancy (HDP).

Gestational hypertension

High blood pressure that develops around or after the 20th week of pregnancy but doesn’t come with elevated protein levels in your urine or any signs of organ failure is called gestational hypertension. We monitor you closely, as many women with gestational hypertension eventually develop preeclampsia.

Chronic hypertension

If you had high blood pressure before you got pregnant, or if it developed in your first trimester, it’s considered chronic hypertension. Again, we monitor you closely to watch for signs of progression.

Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia

If your chronic hypertension gets worse as your pregnancy progresses and your urine shows high levels of protein or other signs of organ failure, you’ve developed preeclampsia and require constant monitoring.

Preeclampsia

Hypertension that occurs after the 20-week mark and involves symptoms of compromised liver, kidney, brain, or blood function is considered preeclampsia. This diagnosis once required a positive test for urine proteins, but preeclampsia can be present even without protein in the urine. 

Eclampsia

When preeclampsia progresses, it becomes eclampsia and often leads to seizures, periods of violent shaking, vacant staring, and decreased alertness. 

How to spot the signs of preeclampsia

It’s possible to have preeclampsia without knowing it because many women don’t experience any hypertension symptoms. If you do, you may notice:

Report any of these symptoms to Dr. Washington immediately. When you see us for your regular prenatal care appointments, we check for these signs at every visit. We test your urine, heart rate, blood pressure, liver enzymes, and platelet levels to detect any potential problems early.

Are you at risk for preeclampsia? 

The exact cause of preeclampsia isn’t clear, but some women are more likely to get it than others. You’re at a higher risk if you:

While you can’t prevent preeclampsia, you can reduce your risk of severe complications by detecting it early.

Preeclampsia prevalence

Women around the world struggle with HDPs, the leading cause of death among mothers and babies. Every year, about 76,000 mothers-to-be, and 500,000 infants die due to HDPs. In Africa and Asia, 10% of maternal deaths are HDP-related, and in Latin America, that percentage spikes to 25%.

In the United States, one in every 12-17 pregnant women develops some form of hypertension disorder. 

Treatment for preeclampsia

If you develop preeclampsia before you reach week 37 of your pregnancy, Dr. Washington does everything he can to lower your blood pressure and prevent seizures. This may involve hospitalization and medication.

The best solution is often early delivery. At week 37 and beyond, Dr. Washington typically induces labor. Although this occurs before your due date, your baby is fully developed and isn’t considered premature.

If your health or your baby’s health necessitate delivery prior to week 37, Dr. Washington may administer steroids first to speed up the development of your baby’s lungs prior to birth. 

Usually, delivery of the baby resolves the problem, but in rare cases, preeclampsia and eclampsia can occur after an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. We monitor you after delivery to watch for signs of postpartum preeclampsia. 

To learn more about preeclampsia or to get started with prenatal care with Dr. Washington, call us or book an appointment online today.

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