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Preeclampsia: A Hidden Pregnancy Danger

by Katlyn Joy | October 20, 2013 12:00 AM

Preeclampsia is considered the leading cause of maternal death and infant illness and death, with at least 76,000 mothers' deaths and 500,000 babies' deaths attributed to it each year, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation.

What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy and is characterized by elevated blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, approximately, 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies are affected by the condition. Should preeclampsia go undetected or untreated, a woman will suffer seizures and be diagnosed with eclampsia. According to the March of Dimes, besides death, preeclampsia can also lead to:

What are the Signs of Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia can sneak up on mothers and surprise doctors. There is no way to prevent the condition, making it all the more important to know the signs and get proper prenatal care where significant changes can be detected by your physician. Considered a silent killer, the main telltale symptom is high blood pressure, something a mother will not be aware of on her own.

Here are some of the signs of preeclampsia, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation:

Signs of high blood pressure or pulmonary edema, also known as fluid in the lungs. These include anxiety, mental confusion, shortness of breath and racing pulse.

When to Call the Doctor or Go the ER

If you have heavy bleeding, fever, chills, nausea, vision problems, rapid weight gain and swelling especially of the face you should put in a call to the doctor. Do not wait until Monday if this is on a weekend. If you notice that you have a number of the symptoms listed, call your doctor with your concerns. It is important not to waste time as lives are at stake and it's better to err on the side of caution.

Causes and Risk Factors of Preeclampsia

It's unknown how preeclampsia happens, but according to the Mayo Clinic, there are risk factors for the condition:

Preeclampsia Treatment

How preeclampsia is treated once detected depends on where you are in the pregnancy and how you and baby are faring.

According to the National Institutes of Health, if it is too soon to deliver the baby, pregnant women will be monitored closely. Their salt intake will be reduced and told to avoid dehydration. Bed rest may be prescribed — particularly side-lying. Additionally, possibly medications for hypertension may be prescribed.

If the mother is further along in her pregnancy, she may be given steroid injections to help speed up the baby's lung development, medications to control blood pressure and prevent seizures may be administered. Hospital admission may be required to monitor her and her baby more closely.

Will My Doctor Induce Labor?

If you have been diagnosed with preeclampsia, your doctor will most likely induce labor if:

Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado with her family.

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