What is preeclampsia and what does it have to do with your pregnancy? Whether your OB recently diagnosed you with this pregnancy-related condition or you just want to learn more about preeclampsia, take a look at the top questions patients have.
Is Preeclampsia Something Only Pregnant Women Need to Watch Out For?
Simply stated — yes. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related condition or complication. Women who aren’t pregnant or were not recently pregnant cannot have preeclampsia. Some women do develop postpartum preeclampsia. Even though this complication typically happens within 48 hours of giving birth, you can develop postpartum preeclampsia several weeks after having a baby.
What Are the Primary Symptoms of Preeclampsia?
The three primary signs of preeclampsia are elevated blood pressure, protein in your urine, and edema (swelling). Other than swelling, you may not notice the other symptoms — until you visit the doctor.
Some women will experience noticeable symptoms due to elevated blood pressure and other physical changes related to this complication. These can include headaches, blurred vision, nausea or vomiting, shoulder pain, upper abdominal pain, and decreased urination. If you experience any of these symptoms or have concerns about how you feel physically during pregnancy, contact your doctor immediately.
When Can Preeclampsia Develop?
Preeclampsia can only develop in pregnant or recently pregnant women. This complication typically starts sometime at or after 20 weeks. The type of treatment a woman needs depends on how far along into her pregnancy she is. Some women may need to deliver immediately. If the pregnancy is too early to deliver, the OB will need to create an alternative treatment plan.
How Is Preeclampsia Treated?
Again, some women will need to deliver as soon as possible. If the doctor feels this is necessary and safe for your baby, they will induce you. Treatment for women who are under 37 weeks pregnant depends on the severity of the complication. Severe preeclampsia may require immediate delivery before 37 weeks if you or your baby is in jeopardy.
If the doctor feels you don’t need to deliver right away, but your case of preeclampsia is severe, they may admit you to the hospital. This allows the medical provider to closely monitor your condition and the baby’s health. Women under 37 weeks pregnant may need to take antenatal corticosteroids. This type of medication can help the baby’s lungs to develop, making it possible to deliver earlier.
Women with preeclampsia may also need other medications while in the hospital — whether they deliver immediately or not. These include medications to lower blood pressure and anticonvulsants such as magnesium sulfate.
Less severe cases of preeclampsia may respond to bed rest at home. If the doctor feels you don’t need to deliver immediately or stay in the hospital, they will still need to monitor your blood pressure and other symptoms closely.
Why Should You Treat Preeclampsia Promptly?
Never ignore or let preeclampsia symptoms go. This condition won’t get better on its own. Left untreated, preeclampsia can seriously affect you and your baby. Women with preeclampsia are at risk for kidney, liver, or brain damage, blood clots, eclampsia (a potentially life-threatening complication that can causes seizures), or stroke.
Potential complications for the unborn baby include premature birth, placental abruption (the separation of the placenta from the uterus), and low birthweight. Untreated preeclampsia can also restrict the baby’s growth inside of the uterus.
Does Preeclampsia Require a C-Section?
Even though some women with this complication will need to deliver immediately, a preeclampsia diagnosis doesn’t necessarily equal a C-section. Many women can deliver vaginally via a medical induction. The doctor may need to break your water (amniotic sac) and use a medication to start labor. But if the labor doesn’t progress or you have other complications, you may need a C-section.
Do you need a prenatal check-up? Contact Stellis Health for more information.