Pre-eclampsia In Pregnancy

Although for most women, pregnancy and childbirth are free from complications or major issues, for an unlucky few there are conditions that will cause problems. For about 5% of pregnant women, pre-eclampsia is a significant complication. It can develop anytime after about 20 weeks, and can have a major impact on your childbirth choices and the health of you and your baby.


What is pre-eclampsia?

This condition is characterised by high blood pressure and the detection of protein in the urine. Both urine tests and blood pressure checks throughout pregnancy will rule out pre-eclampsia if any symptoms show up, and should catch it early if it does occur so that treatment can take place.


What are the symptoms?

There are several things you may notice if you’re developing pre-eclampsia. Swelling, or oedema, of the hands, feet or face may come on suddenly, and will probably be more severe than the normal pregnancy fluid retention many women suffer from. Pre-eclampsia can also cause bad headaches, abdominal pain, visual disturbances, nausea or vomiting and abnormal weight gain. If it isn’t picked up on, it can lead to eclampsia, which causes seizures and may be life-threatening.


How can it affect the baby?

Due to reduced blood supply to the placenta, pre-eclampsia can cause slower growth in the baby, and restricted development. If untreated, it can also cause placental abruption. Because you may need to be induced and deliver early if pre-eclampsia is diagnosed, your baby could also suffer some the effects of pre-term birth, although this isn’t always the case.


Because the effects of pre-eclampsia can be severe, and the symptoms can sometimes look just like normal pregnancy complaints, it’s always important to report any concerns you might have to your doctor, midwife or caregiver. It’s also key to remember to attend all pre-natal appointments so that anything unusual can be picked up on early, and treated straight away.

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