According to the website preeclampsia.org, preeclampsia impacts five to eight percent of all births in the U.S. The condition often occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, and is characterized by persistent high blood pressure during pregnancy or postpartum. Preeclampsia is associated with high levels of protein in the urine or the new development of decreased blood platelets, trouble with the kidneys or liver, fluid in the lungs, or signs of brain trouble such as seizures and/or visual disturbances.
According to Sarah L. Berga, M.D., Professor and Chair Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Medical Director UBMD OBGYN and Women’s Health Program Development at Oishei Children’s Hospital and Kaleida Health, symptoms of preeclampsia include headaches, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, burning behind the sternum, nausea and vomiting, confusion, a heightened state of anxiety, and visual disturbances such as oversensitivity to light, blurred vision, or seeing flashing spots or auras.
Managing preeclampsia depends on gestational age and health of the baby, overall health and age of the mother, and assessing how the disease is progressing. “This includes monitoring a pregnant woman’s blood pressure, and conducting laboratory tests to determine the condition of the mother’s kidneys, liver, the ability of her blood to clot, and the unborn baby’s growth. “Other signs providers watch for are very high blood pressure, and changes in laboratory tests that monitor kidney, liver, and clotting function and blood and platelet count. Sadly, there are not tests other than blood pressure that predict who is going to have a stroke,” said Dr. Berga.
Doctors don’t know the cause of preeclampsia but believe that the placenta plays a role, and that women with chronic hypertension and certain metabolic diseases such as diabetes are more susceptible. Obesity is also a risk factor.
According to Dr. Berga, the only cure for preeclampsia begins with the delivery of the baby and placenta. She explains, “When preeclampsia develops, the mother and her baby must be monitored carefully. While medications and treatments may prolong the pregnancy, once preeclampsia starts, it cannot be reversed, and the health of the mother must be constantly weighed against the health of the baby. Sometimes, the baby must be delivered immediately, regardless of gestational age, to save the mother’s or baby’s life.”
Preeclampsia.org points out that moms are still at risk for preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders even after delivery, which makes it important for their health to be monitored for at least six weeks postpartum. To learn more about this visit www.stillatrisk.org.
Preeclampsia is the leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. The good news, is that most women with preeclampsia deliver healthy babies and fully recover. Speak to your provider about your risks for developing preeclampsia.
Learn more at www.preeclampsia.org. Learn more about Find UBMD Obstetrics and Gynecology at https://ubmdobgyn.com or call 716-636-8284 to make an appointment. If you would like to watch a television program regarding pregnancy and COVID-19 featuring Dr. Berga, see https://youtu.be/e5QOsllbuPU.