Preeclampsia and Eclampsia

Guides

Pregnancy comes along with its own quirks. Today we will be discussing a common pregnancy health issue, that you can say has really been overlooked. 

Although complex, we will try to explain this as simply as possible.

 

What is it?

Around week 20 of the pregnancy, some women will start to notice swellings on their faces, legs, and hands, while others feel persistent headaches, nausea, and difficulty in breathing.

These are not just common pregnancy side effects as we usually assume, but might be the start of a pregnancy complication known as PREECLAMPSIA. 

A sign of preeclampsia is the production of protein in the woman’s’ urine and blood pressure that measures 140/90 mmHg or higher.

When the signs above are ignored, the situation could get complicated and the woman will begin to experience seizures and eventually fall into a coma. 

Seizures can cause a woman to lose consciousness and have jerking movements in the arms and legs. In some cases, the woman may lose control of her bladder and bowels. 

Also, severe preeclampsia increases a woman’s risk of stroke during pregnancy.

ECLAMPSIA is when a mother with preeclampsia experiences seizures during pregnancy or immediately after birth. 

 

Causes

Researchers are working on finding the exact cause of ‘preeclampsia and eclampsia’ but current findings point towards abnormalities in the placenta. Other factors such as the immune system, nutrition, obesity, and genetics may play a role.

 

Symptoms

Some of the major symptoms associated with preeclampsia are as follows:

  • Headache
  • Visual changes (for example blurred vision or light sensitivity)
  • Nausea 
  • Abdominal pain (usually in the upper abdomen)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Changes in urine (becomes frequent or less)

 

Complications

  • Stroke
  • Organ damage (liver, kidney, heart, brain, or lungs)
  • Bleeding after childbirth

 

Diagnosis

Signing up for antenatal care is important because, during your weekly visits, the healthcare professional can easily diagnose preeclampsia at an early stage and act on it with great urgency. 

Common methods of diagnosis include:

  • Checking blood pressure (regularly).
  • Performing urine tests to check the presence of protein.

 

Treatment

If the fetus fully developed and can live outside the womb, the doctor will proceed to deliver the baby by inducing labor or opting for a cesarean section. 

In situations where the fetus is underdeveloped, doctors may prescribe drugs to promote lung maturation. In severe cases, the mother is placed on bed rest with close medical monitoring.

In the case of eclampsia, magnesium sulfate is administered intravenously to the mother to help reduce the occurrence of seizures, and if possible lorazepam (Ativan) is prescribed to break or stop a seizure in progress. 

These medications should be administered by a health care professional assigned to you in order to prevent overdose.

 

Who’s at risk of preeclampsia and eclampsia?

The following conditions increase the chance that a woman will develop preeclampsia:

  • Chronic (long-lasting) high blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Being under 15 years old or over 35 years old
  • It is the woman's first pregnancy
  • Having had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
  • Multiple gestations: twins, triplets, or a greater number of multiples (These pregnancies have more placental tissue. This suggests that the placenta or things it produces may play a role.)
  • Certain autoimmune conditions, including antiphospholipid antibody syndrome and some autoimmune arthritis conditions
  • Having a sister, mother, or daughter who had preeclampsia or high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Having a male partner whose previous partner had preeclampsia (this suggests that the father's genetic material, passed to the fetus and its placenta, may play a role)
  • Having a male partner with whom you were sexually active for only a short length of time prior to becoming pregnant (this may be due to a change in the way a woman's immune system reacts to genes from the father after repeated exposure to his semen)

 

Book an appointment with a healthcare professional today to reduce your chances of developing preeclampsia and further eclampsia. Do this in order to have a safe delivery.

 

Sources

Havard Health [Preeclampsia and Eclampsia A to Z - Accessed Dec 2020]

National Institute of Health [Preeclampsia - Accessed Dec 2020]

Medicinenet [Pregnancy Preeclampsia and Eclampsia - Accessed Dec 2020]

Mayoclinic [Preeclampsia - Accessed Dec 2020]

 

Submitted by Friday Daniel