Preeclampsia: The Hidden Pregnancy Condition You Need to Know About

Expecting a new life in your life is an exciting time. You’ve talked with your mom, your friends and read all the books. But there’s one condition you may not have run across.

Preeclampsia, also known as toxemia, is an increase in blood pressure that you may experience during or even after your pregnancy. The mildest form can occur even if you have normal blood pressure before you’re pregnant. Preeclampsia typically shows up 20 weeks into your pregnancy.

It’s important to know that mild preeclampsia usually doesn’t harm you or your baby. But if it goes untreated, it can result in premature birth and can put you and your baby at risk for serious complications.

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?

Symptoms may include protein in the urine, sudden and rapid weight gain, and severe headaches, among others. Or, you may not experience any symptoms at all. It’s easy to mistake many of the symptoms of preeclampsia for the normal discomforts of pregnancy. Because of this, you should have regular checkups before, during, and after your pregnancy.

Could you be at risk?

About three to five percent of women in the United States develop preeclampsia. Its cause is not known, but autoimmune diseases such as lupus, blood vessel problems, diet, and your genetic makeup may put you at risk.

Your risk goes up if you:

  • Are under 18 or over 35
  • Are obese
  • Have high blood pressure prior to pregnancy
  • Are diabetic
  • Suffer from kidney or an autoimmune disease

You’re also more likely to develop the condition if you experienced it during previous pregnancies.

If you are already being treated for high blood pressure, be sure to talk with your doctor about the safety of any medications you are taking.

How is it treated?
There is no cure for preeclampsia other than delivering your baby. In mild cases with babies less than 37 weeks, your doctor may recommend bed rest, drinking plenty of water, easing up on the salt, and more frequent checkups.

In severe cases, you may be admitted to the hospital to allow closer monitoring of you and your baby. You may also be given medicines to control blood pressure and avoid complications. If preeclampsia develops with your baby over 37 weeks, your doctor will likely want to proceed with delivery.

Your symptoms should go away within six weeks postpartum. But if you experience severe headache, vision problems, or breathlessness after delivery, you should call your doctor immediately.

Talk with your OB/GYN provider about your risk for preeclampsia, or contact us at Women’s Care Florida to learn more.