Many women have heard the word “pre-eclampsia,” but what exactly does it mean?
What is Pre-eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia is a hypertensive disorder that can occur during or immediately after pregnancy.
Many women with pre-eclampsia do not have any symptoms.
Consequences of Pre-Eclampsia
If left untreated, pre-eclampsia can lead to liver or kidney dysfunction and even affect a growing fetus and its ability to receive vital oxygen and nutrients.
The only treatment for pre-eclampsia is delivery.
Pre-eclampsia: Who’s At Risk?
Women who are at risk for pre-eclampsia include:
- First time moms
- Women with pre-existing high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes
- Twin pregnancies
- and women that are under 20 or over 35 years of age
Most women will develop pre-eclampsia towards the end of pregnancy.
We check a woman’s blood pressure at each prenatal visit, and it is important to tell your provider if you are having any changes in your body that could be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
Elevated blood pressure at a prenatal visit does not guarantee the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia. We then check the urine for excess protein and blood tests for abnormal liver and kidney function.
Signs of Pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia is a high-risk medical condition. Signs of severe pre-eclampsia can be:
- Persistent headache
- Blurred vision
- Severe abdominal pain
The most dangerous risks of this disease include: stroke, seizure, or fluid in the lungs to name but a few.
Being Diagnosed with Pre-eclampsia
If a woman is diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, we monitor the growth and well-being of the fetus, check blood levels for signs of severe organ dysfunction, and check blood pressures more frequently. Depending on when a diagnosis occurs, as well as its severity, will determine when a patient is delivered. Most women with pre-eclampsia are candidates to attempt a vaginal delivery.
It will be important to notify your provider in subsequent pregnancies if you have had pre-eclampsia. Studies have shown that baby aspirin starting in early pregnancy may help to decrease the risk of developing pre-eclampsia again.
In addition, women with a history of pre-eclampsia are at risk of cardiovascular disease in their lifetime. Discuss this with your health care provider to ensure that you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle to avoid these complications.
About Chantel Roedner, MD
Dr. Chantel Roedner joined WakeMed Physician Practices as an OB/GYN after completing her residency at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earning her medical degree at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Her clinical interests include high risk obstetrics, infertility, minimally invasive gynecological surgery including robotic surgery, well woman care and contraception.