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Pre-eclampsia: Another good reason to get prenatal care

High blood pressure during pregnancy can cause health problems for mom and baby. But regular prenatal care can help keep you both safe.

Regular medical care during pregnancy is always important. And pre-eclampsia is one more good reason to see your doctor on schedule.

Pre-eclampsia is a serious problem. No one knows what causes it. And there is no one test to diagnose it. But your doctor can watch for its signs: high blood pressure and protein in the urine.

Rarely, pre-eclampsia may lead to eclampsia. This condition may cause seizures or even death.

Severe pre-eclampsia can lead to another problem. It's known as the HELLP syndrome. It affects liver and blood cells. And it can cause:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Headache.
  • Upper-right abdominal pain.

Pre-eclampsia can also keep baby from getting needed nutrients and oxygen. Possible complications are:

  • Low birth weight.
  • Premature birth.
  • Stillbirth.

Fortunately, most pre-eclampsia problems can be prevented with regular prenatal care. And most women with the condition deliver healthy babies, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) reports.

Who's at risk?

You are more likely to get pre-eclampsia if:

  • Your mom or sisters had it.
  • You are carrying more than one child.
  • You are younger than 20 or older than 40.
  • You were obese before pregnancy.
  • You had pre-eclampsia with a previous pregnancy.
  • You have diabetes, kidney disease or lupus.
  • You had high blood pressure before you became pregnant.

What are the signs?

If pre-eclampsia is mild, you may not have any signs. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Sudden swelling of feet and hands.
  • Sudden weight gain (1 pound or more a day).
  • Severe headaches.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Dizziness.
  • Intense stomach pain.

These symptoms may or may not mean you have pre-eclampsia. But they do mean you should see your doctor right away.

How is it treated?

Your health should be closely watched if you have signs of pre-eclampsia. Your doctor may want to see you at least once a week and possibly every day.

If you have pre-eclampsia, treatment depends on:

  • How bad it is.
  • How your baby is doing.
  • How far along in the pregnancy you are.

Later on in pregnancy, delivering the baby might be best.

If it's too early for delivery, steps can be taken to manage the condition for a time. For example, medicine can help lower blood pressure.

If eclampsia develops, medicine can help stop seizures.

You may have short-term complications of pre-eclampsia. This can include increased blood pressure. These problems usually go away within a few weeks after delivery, the AAFP says.

Reviewed 8/16/2023

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