Preeclampsia, a condition in which high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine develop, can affect women during their second or third trimester. Often causing only a modest increase in blood pressure, untreated preeclampsia can lead to severe—even fatal—complications for both mother and baby.
Although the exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, experts speculate that possible reasons may include:
- Autoimmune disorder
- Blood vessel damage
- Insufficient blood flow to the uterus
- Poor diet
Preeclampsia is not a common complication during pregnancy and occurs in a small percentage of women. However, factors for this condition include:
- First pregnancy
- History of diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease
- History of multiples, such as twins or more
- Women older than age 35
When Should I Be Concerned?
Preeclampsia is a condition that can either gradually develop or occur suddenly. It’s important for you and your healthcare provider to regularly monitor your blood pressure and urine (this is one of the reasons for all of those urine specimens).
Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- High blood pressure
- Excess protein in urine
- Swollen hands, face or eyes
- Weight gain of more than 2 pounds per week or a sudden gain over the course of a couple days
Symptoms of severe preeclampsia, which require emergent medical attention, include:
- Abdominal pain, characteristically on the right side under the ribs
- Changes in or temporary loss of vision, blurriness or light sensitivity
- Decreased urination or urine output
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe or long-term headaches
When Do I Notify My Healthcare Provider?
Because nausea, headaches and pains are common complaints during pregnancy, it can be difficult to distinguish whether or not you are experiencing new or more frequent symptoms. If you are apprehensive about your symptoms, alert your provider.
- If you have been diagnosed with preeclampsia, the symptoms of the condition—high blood pressure, protein in urine and other varying symptoms—could disappear within six weeks of birth. However, some women require medication until a healthcare provider determines blood pressure has returned to normal.
- Sadly, there is no known way to prevent preeclampsia, which is why it is so important for expectant mothers to begin prenatal care and monitoring early. When prenatal care is continued throughout pregnancy, moms and babies have the benefit of a safer, healthier birth.