Pre-eclampsia and Eclampsiaby Lori Ramsey
The term pre-eclampsia means a pregnancy disease in which symptoms are hypertension, protein in the urine and swelling. Pre-eclampsia was once known as toxemia. Eclampsia is when hypertension, protein in the urine and swelling (Edema) becomes life-threatening.
Pre-eclampsia is first diagnosed when the blood pressure rises. Confirmation of pre-eclampsia is when protein is found in the urine. Symptoms include swelling of the hands and face occurring after the 20th week of pregnancy. Often there are no outward symptoms, other than those discovered by the healthcare provider. The swelling often happens once the disease has been diagnosed.
Occasionally one sign first discovered is a sudden weight gain. This is caused by retention of fluid. Weight gain of more than two pounds in a week or six pounds in a month is cause for concern.
The cure for pre-eclampsia/eclampsia is delivery of the baby. But since this is often diagnosed in the early second trimester, delivery isnít an option, so careful management of the remainder of the pregnancy is imperative. Mild cases of pre-eclampsia can be managed with simple bed rest. Your healthcare provider will determine how much bed rest you need. Severe cases of pre-eclampsia require long-time hospital stays.
If hospital stay is required, the risk of the disease to the mother is compared to the likelihood of the fetus surviving an early delivery. Tests such as amniocentesis are preformed to determine the maturity of the babyís lungs. If the baby deems mature enough to survive outside the womb, then labor is induced or a cesarean section is preformed to deliver the baby.
In the cases of eclampsia, the severe form of the disease, an emergency cesarean is preformed to save the motherís life. Every measure is taken to prevent fetal death, however if eclampsia is severe enough that the mother could die, the only route is an emergency cesarean. Magnesium sulfate is given to the mother to prevent seizures or convulsions. In less severe cases, the mother is allowed to carry her baby up to 40 weeks with labor being induced to bring on delivery.
Normally after delivery the blood pressure will fall back into a safe range. However, if the blood pressure doesnít drop, medication will be given to help bring it down. You will need to see your physician regularly for monitoring.
The risk of a recurrence of pre-eclampsia/eclampsia in subsequent pregnancies depends on how severe the disease was in the first pregnancy. Normally, with mild cases, the disease does not return.
† More Resources
Casey Joseph Lee's Birth Story
The Facts About High Risk Pregnancies
Lady in Waiting: Coping with Bed Rest
When Something Goes Wrong
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