What You Should KnowPre-eclampsia, also known as toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), is high blood pressure or protein in the urine during pregnancy. This usually occurs in the late second to early third trimester of a pregnancy.
The causes of pre-eclampsia are still unknown; however, probable causes consist of autoimmune disorders, blood vessel problems, diet, and genetics.
Who is At Risk
Pre-eclampsia is more common in first-time pregnant women over the age of 35. Pre-eclampsia is also a risk factor for women who are obese, having twins, or have any history of diabetes, blood pressure, or kidney disease.
Women who suffer from pre-eclampsia generally do not feel sick, but do experience swelling of the hands and face, and rapid weight gain of two or more pounds per week. Other symptoms include constant headaches, decrease in urges to urinate, nausea, blurred vision, and abdominal pain.
Doctors will perform a physical exam if a patient is suspected to have pre-eclampsia. The physical exam consists of measuring the blood pressure, examining any facial or extremity swelling, and monitoring the patient’s weight. If the doctor believes the patient may have pre-eclampsia after a physical exam, blood work and urine analysis may be requested. This measures protein levels in the mother and monitor’s the baby’s health.
The only treatment for pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby. Towards the end of a pregnancy a physician may prescribe medication to induce labor. Bed rest, plenty of water, and a low-salt diet are the most hopeful treatments to negate harmful effects if the condition is present early in the pregnancy.
The signs of pre-eclampsia usually fade six weeks after delivery. However, it is likely for pre-eclampsia to reoccur in later pregnancies. High blood pressure during pregnancy is a precursor for hypertension in old age. It is rare for a mother to die from pre-eclampsia, but a baby’s survival depends greatly on the severity of the condition and successful delivery. There is no known way to prevent pre-eclampsia. Common complications consist of stroke, bleeding problems, premature birth, and liver rupture.