Preeclampsia and Preemies: What You Need to Know

Life is stressful enough when you’re pregnant. The last thing you want to think about is yet another thing that could go wrong. Preeclampsia is not a condition that many people know, but it’s one that every pregnant woman should be aware of. Although many mothers experience it during late-stage pregnancy and give birth to happy, healthy babies, it does have the potential to lead to a laundry list of health problems for both the mother and the child. This can include premature birth, brain damage, kidney failure and death.

It occurs when the organ systems of the mother, usually the liver and kidney, aren’t working at full function. This results in high blood pressure, edema (buildup of fluids) and the presence of protein in the urine. Since these are symptoms that can often go unnoticed, it is essential to consult with a health care professional throughout the pregnancy to monitor for this condition. Recognizing the signs will lead to immediate treatment and a better outcome for both the mother and baby.

It doesn’t usually appear until after the 20-week mark. Although some of the signs are hard to notice (as listed above), a few of the more obvious signs include headache, visual disturbances, experiencing an altered mental state and swelling in the face or the joints. These symptoms may mimic some of the general side-effects pregnancy, but it is important to bring these up to your healthcare provider. More serious symptoms, such as blindness and convulsions, are immediate medical emergencies.

Although there is no cure for it, there are several treatments that a qualified health staff will provide. This includes bed rest, possibly medication for the increased blood pressure and constant monitoring of the health of mom and baby. The only way to cure it is to deliver the child, so if the symptoms are severe, steroid treatment might be administered to accelerate the growth of the baby’s lungs. This would allow the early birth of the child while reducing some of the risks that occur with a premature delivery. Of course, it can still be present after the delivery, so the mother needs to be monitored.

The cause for preeclampsia is not known, but there are some people who are more susceptible to it; for instance, if you’re pregnant for the first time or if you’re over forty. Of course, your health plays an important part. If you already have high blood pressure, diabetes or if you’re overweight, you might be concerned. This is also a condition that seems to be hereditary, so understanding your family history would be a good idea. You’re race could also make you more susceptible; black women seem to be more at risk. Of course, an obstetrician should recognize if you fall in a riskier group and will advise you appropriately.

Having a child is wonderful and beautiful experience. Although there are things that seem to be scary, it is important to know that thousands of perfectly happy babies are born every day. It is also important to note that understanding the signs and symptoms of more serious complications gives you the opportunity to recognize any potential problems early on. This will allow for the proper care of the mother and child — and a happy healthy birth.

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