What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia occurs when you have high blood pressure, new onset, and at least one associated symptom. It can happen during pregnancy, or after delivery. Low levels of platelets (blood cells that help blood clot) or signs of liver or kidney disease may also be present.

Preeclampsia usually occurs after 20 weeks of gestation. However, in some cases it can occur earlier or after delivery.

Preeclampsia can progress to severe Eclampsia. Seizures can occur when blood pressure is high. Like preeclampsia, eclampsia occurs during pregnancy or, rarely, after delivery.

Although doctors have not yet identified the exact cause of preeclampsia as yet, they are exploring possible causes. These are:

Preeclampsia can also be increased by certain risk factors. These risk factors include:

There’s no way to prevent preeclampsia. According to a 2019 research review, doctors may recommend that certain people take low dose aspirin after their first pregnancy to reduce the risk.

Prenatal care that is consistent and early can help your doctor diagnose preeclampsia quicker and avoid complications. Your doctor will be able to give you proper monitoring right up until your due date if you have a diagnosis.

It’s important to remember that you might not notice any symptoms of preeclampsia. If you do develop symptoms, some common ones include:

Your doctor might find that your blood pressure has increased to 140/90 millimeters mercury or more during a physical exam. A urine and blood test can also reveal protein levels, atypical liver enzymes and low platelet counts.

To monitor your baby, your doctor may recommend a nonstress test. A nonstress test is a simple exam that measures how the baby’s heart rate changes as the baby moves. They may also perform an ultrasound to check the health and fluid levels of your baby.

Preeclampsia in pregnancy is treated with delivery. Pregnancy prevents most cases from worsening.

Delivery

If you’re at 37 weeks or later, your doctor may induce labor. At this point, your baby has developed enough and isn’t considered premature.

Your doctor will consider your health and that of your baby if you have preeclampsia. This depends on many factors, including your baby’s gestational age, whether or not labor has begun, and how severe the disease has become.

The condition is usually resolved by delivery of the baby or placenta.

Other treatments during pregnancy

Your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure in certain cases. Preeclampsia can also be complicated by seizures. Your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent seizures.

Your doctor may decide to admit you for further monitoring. You might receive intravenous (IV) medications to lower your blood pressure or steroid injections to help your baby’s lungs develop more quickly.

Preeclampsia can be managed based on whether it is mild or severe. Severe preeclampsia can be characterized by:

  • changes in the baby’s heart rate that indicate distress
  • Angina
  • seizures
  • Symptoms of impaired kidney function or liver function
  • Fluid in the lungs

If you have any symptoms of severe preeclampsia, it’s vital to get immediate medical attention. It’s always important to contact your doctor if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms during your pregnancy. Remember that your primary concern should be your health and the well-being of your baby.

Treatments after delivery

Preeclampsia Foundation says that preeclampsia symptoms usually disappear within 48 hours of the baby’s birth. Preeclampsia symptoms usually resolve within 48 hours. In many cases, liver and kidney function return back to normal within a few weeks.

Preeclampsia can occur after delivery even if the pregnancy was not complicated. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD), postpartum preeclampsia can occur anywhere from 48 hours to 6 weeks after delivery.

Preeclampsia is a condition that can be caused by pregnancy. Regular blood pressure checks and close follow-up with your doctor are essential after giving birth. Even after an uncomplicated pregnancy, contact your doctor if you’ve recently had a baby and notice symptoms of preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia can be a serious condition. If it is not treated, it can be life-threatening for you and your baby. Other complications may include:

  • Low platelet levels can lead to bleeding problems
  • Placental abruption is the breaking of the placenta and uterine walls.
  • The liver is at risk
  • Kidney failure
  • Pulmonary edema
  • seizures

Complications for the baby can also occur if they’re born premature due to efforts to resolve preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia can be found in 3 to 5 per cent of preeclampsia cases. However, a 2020 research review revealed that it is not common in all populations. Certain groups are more likely to experience preeclampsia than others. These include nonHispanic Black women as well as American Indian and Alaskan Native women.

Data on disparities mainly compares differences between non-Hispanic Black women and white women. Only a few studies have examined the outcomes for mixed-race women, including Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, and mixed-race women.

A 2017 study examined the preeclampsia prevalence in 2014. It included data from nearly 177,000 deliveries by women with preeclampsia/eclampsia.

Based on race and ethnicity, the total rates of preeclampsia or eclampsia are:

  • 69.8 per 1,000 deliveries for Black women — 60 percent higher than for white women
  • 46.8 per 1000 deliveries for Hispanic women
  • White women receive 43.3 per 1000 deliveries
  • 28.8 for 1,000 deliveries for Asian/Pacific Islander woman

It’s also important to note that, overall, morbidity and mortality in pregnancy aren’t equal across racial and ethnic groups.

A 2019 study, for example, found that Black and American Indian and Alaskan Native women had more deaths due to pregnancy than white, Hispanic and Asian American women.

Preeclampsia research that uses race and ethnic differences to provide clarity is limited. Additional research is needed that considers socioeconomic, genetic, and environmental factors, as well as accessing healthcare.

During pregnancy, it’s important to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. This means eating a healthy diet, taking prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid, as well as regular prenatal care checks.

Preeclampsia is a condition that can sometimes happen, even with the best of care. Preeclampsia can pose a danger to both you and your baby.

Talk to your doctor about what you can do to reduce your preeclampsia risk and the warning signs. They may refer you to a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine if necessary.

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