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How Common is Preeclampsia (Pregnancy) by Loretta Hughes

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Preeclampsia is a disease that affects 5% to 8% of all pregnant women.  This disease causes high blood pressure and high protein levels in the urine sometime after the 20th week.  If left untreated the outcome for mother and baby can be deadly.  Symptoms are shadowed by what may be regarded as normal pregnancy symptoms, from mild to severe and from slowly developing to very abrupt.  Its treatment is simple, delivery.  The best preventative care is an early diagnosis.

Many causes are associated with Preeclampsia, but the exact cause still has yet to be determined.  Diet, having a multiple birth, obesity, age, your DNA, and/or having high blood pressure before pregnancy are indications to be attentive to any pregnancy symptoms.  If any of these causes are of concern then these symptoms, already relating to pregnancy, including nausea or vomiting, multiple blood pressure readings of 140/90 mm Hg or over, high protein level in the urine, severe headache, sudden weight gain, vision changes, decreased urine output, and excessive swelling in the hands/face/eye regions may be difficult to distinguish.  Upon observation of these symptoms, your doctor will perform a general physical exam and may order additional blood tests, extended urine tests, a non-stress test, and a fetal ultrasound.

Regular prenatal visits are important throughout your pregnancy to avoid serious complications not only to you but your baby.  Your baby may need to be delivered early which can cause low birth weight and other health issues consisting of epilepsy, learning disabilities, and hearing and vision problems.  Preeclampsia may also prevent the placenta from delivering enough oxygen to the baby.  It may also start separating from the uterine wall causing life-threatening bleeding to both baby and mother.  The mother may experience seizures and stroke. Additionally, other organs can be affected for example the kidneys not being able to function properly and the rupturing of the liver.  These rare but serious complications can be deadly.

Preeclampsia can only be “cured” by delivering the baby.  If the baby is developed enough, your doctor may schedule a c-section or an induced labor.  If the baby is not close to term and you have a mild condition, your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medicines and/or bed rest.  They may also require more frequent doctor visits and fetal heart rate and ultrasound checkups.  Intermediate conditions may require a hospital stay to closely monitor your condition.  Steroid injections to help with the baby’s lung development may be required.  The monitoring of fluid intake and an intravenous medicine called magnesium sulfate might be given to help prevent seizures.  In extreme cases, early delivery may be the only option for both mother and baby.

The first few days after delivery the symptoms may get worse.  The effects of preeclampsia often take 1 to 6 weeks to return to normal.  Subsequent pregnancies will usually result in a diagnosis of preeclampsia.  If you have more than one pregnancy with preeclampsia your likelihood of high blood pressure returning increases with age.  There is no prevention for preeclampsia.  Regular doctor visits and early prenatal care are the best prevention for reducing any risk-causing factors.


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