Do You Know the Signs of Preeclampsia?
Every pregnant woman’s goal is to have a healthy baby. One of the best ways to achieve that is by knowing the signs of serious pregnancy complications like preeclampsia. With May being Preeclampsia Awareness Month, this is a good time to put the spotlight on the symptoms of this potentially life-threatening disorder.
Who is at risk? Every pregnant woman! It doesn’t matter how old she is, where she lives, what her job is, her health status or the number of times she has been pregnant; preeclampsia can affect any pregnant woman at any time. In the United States, between five and eight percent of pregnant women are diagnosed with preeclampsia or one of its telltale symptoms – high blood pressure – every year, and when left untreated, they can have serious repercussions for mother and baby. Thankfully, it can be detected early and easily, and can usually be treated immediately to help keep mom and baby safe.
Symptoms typically show up after about week 20, but preeclampsia can be diagnosed at at any time in pregnancy, even during labor. It is characterized by these symptoms:
- High blood pressure
- Headache that won’t quite go away
- Protein in the urine
- Changes in vision which could indicate a problem with the brain or nervous system
- Pain in the liver, on the right side of the abdominal area
Some women have no symptoms at all which is why it’s so important for every pregnant woman to see a midwife or physician regularly. Blood pressure and urine are checked for changes and abnormalities at every appointment.
The treatment for preeclampsia depends on a number of factors: the severity of the symptoms and the baby’s gestational age being the most important. If the mom can be stabilized with medication, then it may be safe for her to continue with her pregnancy while being closely monitored by her physician. If it is not safe to continue the pregnancy, then the mother will be medically induced or, if the symptoms are severe, the baby will be born by cesarean.
Thankfully most pregnant women get reliable prenatal care which helps increase the chances of catching preeclampsia in its early stages, when it’s most treatable. If a client of a birth center is diagnosed with preeclampsia, for the safety of both mother and baby, the client would be transferred to a physician’s care to labor and birth in a hospital, just in case a cesarean birth was needed.
But pregnant moms shouldn’t feel discouraged! They should continue to exercise and make healthy food choices so that in the event of an unexpected complication like preeclampsia, mother and baby will be as healthy as they can be for a quick recovery.
For more information, check the Preeclampsia Foundation’s website.