Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a complication of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure. It usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy and affects about one million pregnant women per year in India. If left untreated, it may lead to health problems for the expectant mom and baby.

Symptoms

Pre-eclampsia is characterized by three symptoms

  • High blood pressure
  • Edema of skin
  • Presence of protein in urine

In severe cases, you may get a headache, blurred vision, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, and shortness of breath.

Risk factors

  • Family history
  • History of pre-eclampsia or gestational hypertension
  • Multiple pregnancy
  • Mother’s age less than 20 and above 40 years
  • BMI greater than 30

Diagnosis

Prenatal checkups are important in diagnosing pre-eclampsia. The doctor may check for an increase in blood pressure, blood tests, and urine levels. Other tests also help in checking for pre-eclampsia. This includes kidney function test and blood clotting test.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the stage of pregnancy. With due date closer, the doctor may opt for immediate delivery. This is particularly true if the development of the baby is complete. Lifestyle changes like reducing salt consumption, drinking 8 glasses of water in a day, having protein-rich diet, and sleeping on the left side to reduce stress on major blood vessels are helpful.

In severe pre-eclampsia, doctors prescribe blood pressure medications. Other recommendations are dietary changes, bed rest, and supplements.

If left untreated, pre-eclampsia may lead to liver and renal failure in the mother. Severe cases may lead to seizures in the mother. This condition may also affect the blood flow to the placenta, thus affecting the delivery of oxygen and food to the developing fetus. Pre-eclampsia may lead to low-birth-weight in children.

Prevention

Diet and exercise help in preventing pre-eclampsia to a certain extent.

  • Reduce salt in diet
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water
  • Enough rest
  • Regular exercise
  • Keep legs raised while sitting
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages

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