Preeclampsia, previously known as toxemia, is the sudden increase in blood pressure of a pregnant woman. If this condition occurs it is usually after the 20th week of pregnancy. It can affect the woman‘s kidneys, liver and brain. A more severe form of preeclampsia, eclampsia can cause a pregnant women to have seizures.
Preeclampsia results in high blood pressure and high protein levels in the urine of pregnant women. The cause of this condition is unknown, but there are risk factors for developing preeclampsia, they include the following:
- Multiple pregnancies
- Diabetes or kidney disorder
- Teenage pregnancy
- First pregnancy
- History of high blood pressure
If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious and long term complications for mother and baby.
Symptoms of Preeclampsia
There are no overt symptoms of preeclampsia but women with the condition may experience the following:
- Swelling in the hands, feet and legs
- Sudden weight gain
- Lower back pain
- Severe headaches
- Elevated pulse
- Confusion and anxiety
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in vision
Preeclampsia is often detected during a routine blood pressure or urine test. A single high blood pressure reading does not necessarily indicate preeclampsia, which is why it is important to have proper prenatal care throughout pregnancy in order to monitor any significant changes. A blood test, urine collection test or fetal ultrasound may be performed to confirm the diagnosis of preeclampsia.
Treatment of Preeclampsia
The only fully effective treatment for preeclampsia is to deliver your baby. Labor may be induced for patients who are near the end of their pregnancy. Blood pressure typically returns to normal a few weeks after delivery but will need to be monitored postpartum. Depending on the severity of the condition, medications to lower blood pressure or prevent seizures may be prescribed. Bed rest may be necessary for patients who are not near the end of their pregnancy.