Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy-related condition characterised by high blood pressure and organ damage, typically affecting the liver and kidneys. If left untreated, it can lead to complications for both the mother and baby. The problem usually manifests itself after the 20th week of pregnancy. Common symptoms include high blood pressure, swelling, protein in the urine, headaches, weight gain, abdominal pain, vision problems, and decreased urine output. Regular monitoring and medical intervention are essential for managing pre-eclampsia.
This condition can restrict blood flow to the placenta, leading to complications for the baby. If untreated, it can progress to eclampsia, a life-threatening condition with seizures. It is important to manage the condition with careful monitoring, bed rest, blood pressure control, and, in severe cases, early delivery of the baby. Regular prenatal care and early detection are crucial in minimising the associated risks.
Causes of Preeclampsia
The exact causes of preeclampsia are still not fully understood. However, several factors are believed to contribute to its development.
- Placental Abnormalities. Preeclampsia is thought to originate from problems with the blood vessels. When the blood vessels in the placenta don’t develop properly or function optimally, it can lead to reduced blood flow, inadequate nutrient and oxygen supply, and increased release of substances that contribute to high blood pressure.
- Genetics. There may be a genetic component to preeclampsia. Women with a family history of preeclampsia have an increased risk of developing the condition.
- Immune System Response. The immune system’s response to the developing placenta may trigger inflammation and cause damage to blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure and organ dysfunction.
- Vascular Endothelial Dysfunction. Preeclampsia involves dysfunction of the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels. These cells are crucial in maintaining blood vessel health and regulating blood flow. When it doesn’t function properly, it can lead to reduced blood flow and increased blood pressure.
- Pre-Existing Conditions. Certain pre-existing medical conditions, such as chronic hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, and autoimmune disorders, can increase the risk of developing preeclampsia.
- First pregnancy. Preeclampsia is more common in the first pregnancy.
Symptoms of Preeclampsia
Below are listed some of the most common symptoms of preeclampsia.
- Swelling. Mild swelling, particularly in hands, face or legs, is common during pregnancy, but sudden or excessive swelling should be evaluated immediately.
- Rapid weight gain. Significant weight gain, typically over a short period, is typically more than 2 pounds per week.
- Headaches. Persistent or severe headaches that are not relieved by over-the-counter pain medication.
- Visual disturbances. Vision changes include blurred vision, double vision, sensitivity to light, or seeing spots or flashing lights.
- Upper abdominal pain. Pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen, often under the ribs on the right side.
- Nausea or vomiting. Persistent nausea or vomiting, unrelated to other factors like morning sickness.
- Decreased urine output. Reduced frequency of urination or noticeably decreased urine output. This can be an indication of impaired kidney function.
- Changes in liver function. Elevated liver enzymes are detected through blood tests, indicating potential liver involvement.
- Changes in blood clotting. Abnormalities in blood clotting factors or platelet levels can lead to excessive bleeding or clotting issues.
Treatment of Preeclampsia
Below are some common treatment options for preeclampsia
- Close monitoring. Regular monitoring of blood pressure, urine protein levels, and other vital signs are essential to track the progression of preeclampsia and assess the health of the mother and the baby.
- Medications to Lower Blood Pressure. Medications may be prescribed to help manage high blood pressure in preeclampsia. These may include oral antihypertensive drugs.
- Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids, such as betamethasone, may be given to promote foetal lung maturity if preterm delivery is anticipated due to severe preeclampsia.
- Hospitalisation. In severe cases, hospitalisation may be necessary for close monitoring and management.
- Anticonvulsant medication. Anticonvulsant medications may be administered to prevent seizures if there is a risk of seizures due to severe preeclampsia or eclampsia.
- Delivery of the baby. Delivery is the definitive treatment for preeclampsia. Depending on the condition, the timing and mode of delivery are determined.
When to Consult a Doctor
You can also get in touch with the expert Gynecology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.
Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy-related condition with high blood pressure and organ damage. It requires careful monitoring and appropriate management to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the child.
Q. What causes preeclampsia?
A. The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown. However, placental abnormalities, immune system dysfunction, genetic factors, and preexisting conditions can contribute to its development.
Q. What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?
A. Common symptoms of preeclampsia include high blood pressure, swelling, rapid weight gain, headaches, visual disturbances, upper abdominal pain, nausea and change in liver function or blood clotting.
Q. How is preeclampsia treated?
A. Treatment for preeclampsia aims to manage blood pressure, prevent complications, and ensure the well-being of the mother and child.
Q. Can preeclampsia be prevented?
A. While preeclampsia cannot always be prevented, certain measures may lower the risk. These include attending regular prenatal care, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing preexisting medical conditions, and taking low-dose aspirin as advised by the doctors.
Q. Can preeclampsia occur after delivery?
A. Yes, preeclampsia can develop after delivery, known as postpartum preeclampsia. It typically occurs within the first few days or weeks after giving birth.