What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is related to increased blood pressure and protein in the mother’s urine (as a result of kidney problems). It affects the placenta and it can affect the mother’s kidney liver and brain.

Preeclampsia is also a leading cause of foetal complications which include low birth weight, premature birth and stillbirth. There is no proven way to prevent preeclampsia and the only way to “cure” preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. Most women who develop signs of preeclampsia are closely monitored to lessen or avoid related problems.

In recent years the incidence of preeclampsia had increased due partly to the increased numbers of multiple births and the rise in the numbers of older mothers. Even though high blood pressure and related disorders during pregnancy can be serious, most women who develop preeclampsia have successful pregnancies when they obtain early and regular prenatal care.

Who is likely to develop Preeclampsia?

You are more likely to develop preeclampsia than other pregnant women if you have one or more of the following conditions:

  • Chronic hypertension
  • If you developed high blood pressure or preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy
  • If you are obese prior to pregnancy
  • If you are pregnant with more than one baby
  • If you are over 40 years old
  • Your last pregnancy was more than 10 years before
  • If you have diabetes, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or scleroderma.

What are the Symptoms of Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia sometimes develops without any symptoms. High blood pressure may develop slowly, but more commonly it has a sudden onset and this is usually the first sign of preeclampsia. Therefore monitoring your blood pressure is an important part of prenatal care.

Other signs may include:

  • High level of protein in urine (potential kidney failure) and oliguria (passing a reduced volume of urine)
  • Severe headaches
  • Changes in vision, including temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity
  • Upper abdominal pain, usually under your ribs
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased levels of platelets in your blood
  • Impaired liver function
  • Shortness of breath caused by fluid in your lungs.

Sudden weight gain and oedema(swelling) particularly in your face and hands often accompanies preeclampsia, but these symptoms may also occur in normal pregnancies so they are not considered reliable signs of preeclampsia.