Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs during pregnancy or shortly after delivery, where pregnant women have high blood pressure, swelling on the feet and hands and possibly protein in their urine. This condition was formerly known as toxemia. When it occurs, it ranges from mild to severe.
In some cases, low clotting factors or platelets may be detected in blood, which are indicators of liver or kidney issues. Generally, Preeclampsia and Pregnancy occur around the 20th week of pregnancy, but in some cases, it may occur earlier or even a few weeks after delivery.
Severe cases of preeclampsia lead to eclampsia, a condition where high blood pressure leads to seizures. This poses serious health risks for both the mother and the child, and in some very rare severe cases, death. Eclampsia also occurs during pregnancy or in some rare cases after delivery.
Research suggests that close to 5% of pregnant women get preeclampsia.
Causes of preeclampsia:
There is still no definitive Causes of preeclampsia, but doctors are still exploring potential causes that include blood vessel issues, genetic factors, and autoimmune disorders.
Most cases are attached to issues to do with blood vessels. Most experts suggest that there might be difficulties in the development of the placenta as the vessels supplying it with blood and nourishments are smaller or somewhat narrower than usual, and they have different responses to hormones. In such cases, there is limited blood flow to the placenta. Experts suggest the following could be possible causes for narrower blood vessels although the reasons are not entirely known.
- Immunity problems
- Genetic factors
- Insufficient blood flow into the uterus
- Damages to blood vessels
As part of the causes, doctors have identified risk factors that increase pregnant women’s chances of developing preeclampsia. They include;
History of eclampsia or preeclampsia:
If a pregnant woman has been exposed to preeclampsia before, or if there has been a preeclampsia case in the family history, the chances are high that she might develop the condition.
Chronic hypertension means high blood pressure that occurs before the 20th week of pregnancy or that was present before pregnancy. It has no symptoms, and it could be hard to determine the origin. If a pregnant lady has chronic hypertension, there are higher risks of developing preeclampsia.
During the first pregnancy, there is a higher chance of developing preeclampsia.
New pregnancy with new paternity:
Getting pregnant with a new pregnancy with Preeclampsia increases the chances of developing preeclampsia, compared to a third or fourth pregnancy with the same partner.
Although the chances of developing preeclampsia are higher in young pregnant women, they are equally high in women above 35.
If you’re carrying a set of twins or triplets (basically more than one fetus), the chances of developing this condition are higher.
Short intervals between births:
If you’re having babies frequently, about less than two years apart, or more than ten years apart, you’re more likely to develop preeclampsia.
More risk factors include conceiving through Vitro fertilization, being obese, having a history of high blood pressure, kidney disorders, diabetes, and migraines. Lastly, if you have a history or a tendency to develop lupus or blood clots, the risks of developing preeclampsia are higher.
Symptoms of preeclampsia:
Preeclampsia has no symptoms in most cases, and if they are present, they could be hard to notice. The most common signs are high blood pressure and protein in the urine. These two are the early signs for the majority of cases, although you may not notice them unless a doctor takes the tests during the antenatal visits.
It’s important to note that most women experience high blood pressure during pregnancy, but that doesn’t necessarily suggest a case of preeclampsia. The most definitive sign of the condition is a protein in the urine.
As the condition progresses, the pregnant woman may experience some signs such as edema and slight swellings in the face, hands, and ankles. Also, remember swelling is common in pregnancy, especially the third trimester, so you should not be quick to judge a case of preeclampsia.
Later on, in addition to swelling and protein in the urine, the following symptoms might occur;
- Blurry vision
- Slight headaches, and sometimes severe
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden weight gain
- Pains in the belly, especially upper right side
- Nausea and vomiting
- Reduced peeing and sometimes not at all
Treatment and Prevention of preeclampsia:
There are no clear strategies for the treatment of this condition, but research is ongoing. Firstly, it’s important to note that this condition cannot be treated till delivery. Unless her blood pressure lowers, the pregnant woman is still at risk of stroke or severe bleeding. However, in some rare cases, delivery is not the best option for both the mother and baby. Such cases are where the condition started earlier during pregnancy.
All in all, doses of the following might work.
These are drugs that are used to bring down blood pressure.
These drugs are only used in severe cases and are used to prevent a seizure.
These drugs improve liver functioning as well as the platelet count. In most cases, these are used when the mother has HELLP syndrome.
Example of Prevention of preeclampsia:
On this, there are still no clear strategies, but if you have a history of the condition, it’s important to take some steps to protect you and the baby. Examples include;
- embarking on a weight-loss mission (if you’re overweight),
- eating fewer sugars
- regular exercise
- avoiding alcohol and caffeine
- eating less salt
- taking enough rest
- avoid eating processed foods
- drinking lots of water per day
Foods that might help in the prevention of preeclampsia:
There is no magic pill to avoiding preeclampsia. However, it all starts with eating a balanced diet and avoiding processed foods that might help in the prevention of preeclampsia. We recommend the following nutritional advice for pregnant women.
This can be found in leafy greens such as kales, citrus fruits, fortified cereals, and dried beans. Folic acid is very crucial in preventing congenital disabilities and reducing the risks of premature births.
Eating high amounts of healthy proteins is important for pregnant ladies. Besides helping with preeclampsia, proteins are beneficial to meet the daily needs of the growing baby. Dairy products include milk, cheese, and yogurt. Besides, dairy products contain considerable amounts of calcium, which is also beneficial for both the mother and the child. However, it would be best if you were careful with the yogurt you choose as we have so many unworthy brands out there. We highly recommend Greek yogurt.
This group of foods includes lentils, peas, soybeans, dried beans, and peanuts. They contain high amounts of folic acid, fiber, protein, iron, calcium, and folate, which the body greatly needs during pregnancy. Some legumes are also high in magnesium, which is essential in keeping preeclampsia away.
Salmon is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are perfect boosters of immunity. They are very helpful in the health and wellbeing of the baby. However, some seafood contains lots of mercy. Examples of such include sharks and swordfish, which should be avoided.
Generally, eat lots of vegetables and fresh fruits. Also, make sure your foods are based on starchy foods such as rice and pasta, and if it’s possible, let it be whole grain. Lastly, avoid as much as possible foods rich in added sugar such as soft drinks, cakes, sweets, and biscuits.
The bottom line:
If you’re pregnant, you don’t have to worry about the risks of preeclampsia. If you happen to have this condition, keep in mind that it’s not a death sentence. Make sure you make enough antenatal visits and you follow a healthy diet.