What is preeclampsia

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Preeclampsia is one of the most common complications that can occur during pregnancy.

What is pre-eclampsia during pregnancy?

Preeclampsia, also known as toxemia or pre-eclampsia, during pregnancy occurs when there is a sudden increase in blood pressure, proteinuria (excess protein in the urine) and swelling of the face, hands and feet (edema).

Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, a much more serious condition that can lead to seizures and even death for both mother and child.

Preeclampsia usually occurs after 20 weeks' gestation and up to six weeks after delivery, although in rare cases it can occur before 20 weeks.

Why does preeclampsia occur?

It seems that preeclampsia is due to a problem in the development of the placenta. The small blood vessels that initially exist within the placenta should eventually become arteries. If these arteries are not formed, the placenta does not work properly, causing high blood pressure, swelling and can trigger kidney problems.Although it is not very clear what the causes of preeclampsia during pregnancy are, there are several theories about it:

  • An excess of a gene related to the regulation of the immune system.
  • Exposure to air pollution from traffic.
  • High levels of CYP2J2 enzyme in cells of the placenta and uterine wall.

Who is most at risk for preeclampsia?

Women are at higher risk of pre-eclampsia:

  • in your first pregnancy.
  • over 40 and under 20.
  • with a history of hypertension before pregnancy.
  • with a family history of preeclampsia. A woman whose mother or sister had pre-eclampsia has a higher risk of developing it.
  • with a personal history of pre-eclampsia, that is, if you have suffered from pre-eclampsia in other pregnancies.
  • suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes.
  • with multiple pregnancies.
  • with a body mass index equal to or greater than 30.

What consequences can preeclampsia have?

Preeclampsia can have some long-term consequences for the baby's development. The main effect of pre-eclampsia on the fetus is a reduction in its growth, since the blood supply to the placenta is restricted. Studies have shown that high blood pressure during pregnancy can affect the cognitive abilities of the baby.

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?

  • Mild symptoms of preeclampsia:
    • High blood pressure (hypertension).
    • Swelling or fluid retention (edema) in the hands, feet, ankles, and face.
    • Protein in the urine (proteinuria).

Many pregnant women will experience hypertension and bloating from fluid retention, but this does not necessarily imply preeclampsia. The clearest sign of preeclampsia is the presence of protein in the urine.

  • Serious symptoms of preeclampsia:
    • Headache.
    • Abdominal (epigastric) pain.
    • Pain in the back side of the back.
    • Blurred vision and intolerance to tolerate bright light.
    • Urinate infrequently
    • Tiredness and general malaise.
    • Nausea and vomiting

How is preeclampsia diagnosed?

For the diagnosis of preeclampsia, the following are taken into account:

  • The hypertension. High blood pressure, that is, above 140/90 mm Hg is abnormal in pregnancy.
  • Presence of protein in urine. This parameter can only be detected by analyzing a urine sample.
  • Blood test. In this way, the functional status of the kidneys and liver is checked, as well as blood clotting.
  • Fetal ultrasound. Preeclampsia affects fetal growth, so an ultrasound can check the growth of the fetus as well as its movement and heart rate.

How is preeclampsia treated?

Preeclampsia only disappears after delivery, so in severe cases, and when diagnosed late in pregnancy, it may be advisable to advance the delivery date.
In very early stages of pregnancy or when the symptoms of preeclampsia are mild, it may be advisable to:

  • keep strict bed rest, and only sit or get up when really necessary.
  • take rest. In other cases it is allowed to rest in an armchair but strictly limit any type of physical activity.

However, and especially when preeclampsia has been diagnosed very early in pregnancy, the doctor may decide to use a drug such as:

  • antihypertensives. To lower blood pressure.
  • corticosteroids. That in addition to improving platelets and liver function, it accelerates the development of the baby's lungs, which may be important in the event of having to advance labor.

In all cases, a close monitoring of blood pressure, urine protein levels and the baby's growth will be necessary. Sometimes the mother may need to be hospitalized to ensure continuous rest and stricter monitoring.
It is very important to control blood pressure during pregnancy. Do you know what your blood pressure is? Are you hypertensive?
Keep reading:

  • Complications in pregnancy
  • Caffeine and pregnancy

Video: What Is Pre-eclampsia?


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