What is pre-eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia in a nutshell is a complicated and/or high risk pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia usually starts to form around 20 weeks of pregnancy. It can also develop after birth which is known as postpartum pre-eclampsia. Symptoms include excess protein in urine or other signs of kidney problems. Decreased levels of platelets in blood, increased liver enzymes indicating liver problems. shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and severe headaches or migraines are also common symptoms. Changes in vision which includes temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity can occur. Pain in the upper belly usually under the ribs on the right side is another common symptom. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and would like additional information, please contact one of our Certified Nurse Midwives.
Other complications that could be caused by pre-eclampsia include fetal growth restriction, preterm birth, placental abruption, hemolysis, eclampsia, cardiovascular disease, and other organ damage.
What are the warning signs of pre-eclampsia?
The warning signs of pre-eclampsia are most importantly a rising or elevated blood pressure. Consistent pressures in the range of 130s/80s are a signal that you may be at risk. It’s important to check your pressure when you are at home, comfortable and not feeling stressed. Blood pressure is very responsive to emotions – which is what is at play when someone has White Coat Syndrome – the finding of elevated blood pressures when at the doctor office only. This way you will know if the elevated pressures at your doctor/midwife visits are really high blood pressure.
Your provider will likely do some baseline labs that can confirm or refute the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia. The other warning signs usually come once the process is already happening – generalized swelling (especially of the hands and face), pain in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen, spots or flashes of light in your vision, hyperactive reflexes. You will be spilling protein in your urine. (P. Fadwah Halaby, 2022).
Who is at risk?
People at risk include those over 35, anyone who has had pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy, first time pregnancies and those having a baby with a new partner. Mothers experiencing high stress are at risk to complications. Autoimmune disorder, Vitro fertilization, history of pre-eclampsia in the family, and a 10 or more gap between pregnancies increase risk. Pregnancies with 2 or more babies are also at high risk to developing pre-eclampsia and/or postpartum pre-eclampsia. Existing conditions such as chronic high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, and obesity can cause you to be at risk.
What can women do to prevent it or treat it?
There are some that believe this is a diagnosis related to deficiency of protein intake (read The Brewer Pregnancy Diet) and others believe there is an autoimmune component. The truth is somewhere in between with one or both of these factors influencing the development of pre-eclampsia. It won’t hurt to follow the Brewer diet, and the pregnancy provider may recommend taking a baby aspirin starting around 12 weeks of pregnancy to help prevent it.
Another prevention tactic is taking magnesium supplements, taking concentrated epsom salt baths and/or homeopathic magnesium. Once it develops, the only treatment is giving birth. Note that it is recommended to have an early birth. Make sure you are making healthy choices as neglect to this condition may lead to more severe or even fatal issues for mother and baby.
*Information provided by ARPN/CNMs at Midwife360