Loading
Central Business Office: 800 Lafayette St., Camden, SC 29020Billing or Account Questions: (803) 713-8350
Patient Portal Prescription Refill Online Payments Patient Forms

Preeclampsia 

Introduction
Preeclampsia is a common, yet serious problem that can develop during pregnancy.  Formerly called toxemia, preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and elevated levels of protein in urine that develop after the 20th week of pregnancy.  Untreated preeclampsia can be dangerous or fatal to a mother and baby.  Delivering the baby is the only cure for preeclampsia.

Back to Top

Anatomy
Your blood pressure is a measure of how hard your heart works to force the flow of blood.  Your blood pressure measurement reflects systolic and diastolic pressure.  Your systolic pressure is the amount of force that occurs when your heart contracts to pump blood out of your heart.  Your diastolic pressure is the minimum pressure between heartbeats.
 
Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers.  Your systolic blood pressure is recorded as the top number and your diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number.  For example, a blood pressure that is 120/80 mmHg is stated as “120 over 80.”  In this instance, the systolic blood pressure is 120 and the diastolic blood pressure is 80.

Back to Top

Causes
The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown.  Researchers suspect that immune system, nutrition, blood vessel problems or insufficient blood flow to the uterus may contribute to preeclampsia.  It occurs in about 8% of all pregnancies.

Back to Top

Symptoms
The symptoms of preeclampsia are high blood pressure and elevated protein levels in urine after the 20th week of pregnancy.  Other symptoms may develop gradually or suddenly or just during the last few weeks of pregnancy.  You may experience severe headache, vision changes, pain in your upper right abdomen, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, decreased urination, and sudden weight gain.  Your face and hands may swell.  You may feel irritable and agitated.

Back to Top

Diagnosis
Preeclampsia is usually detected during a routine prenatal doctor visit.  However, you should contact your doctor if you develop the symptoms of preeclampsia.  Blood pressure readings above 140/90 mmHg are considered high during pregnancy.  Your doctor can check your urine sample for protein with a simple in-office test. 
 
If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, your doctor will conduct more blood and urine tests to determine how your liver and kidneys are functioning.  Your doctor will carefully monitor your baby’s growth with ultrasound.  A nonstress test or biophysical profile may be performed on your developing baby.  A nonstress test measures your baby’s heart rate and amount of movement over a period of time.  A biophysical profile combines an ultrasound with a nonstress test to provide more information.

Back to Top

Treatment
The only treatment for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.  If you are near the end of your pregnancy, you will be induced for labor or have a C-section right away.  If you have severe symptoms, your baby will need to be delivered regardless of his or her gestational age.  If your symptoms are mild, you may be placed on bed rest to allow your baby more time to develop.  Your doctor may prescribe medications to lower your blood pressure and improve your liver and platelet functioning. 

Back to Top

Prevention
Although there is no way to prevent preeclampsia, attending all of your prenatal care appointments can help identify the condition as early as possible to ensure prompt treatment.

Back to Top

Am I at Risk
Preeclampsia is more common during first pregnancies and first pregnancies with a new partner.  It occurs more frequently in women over the age of 35 and those of African-American heritage.  The risk is higher for women that are obese.  A personal or family history of preeclampsia increases your risk of developing the condition.  Carrying twins, triplets, or other multiples increases the risk.  Women with gestational diabetes, chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, or lupus have an increased risk of preeclampsia.

Back to Top

Complications
Early and severe preeclampsia is associated with the greatest risk to the mother and baby.  Complications may include lack of blood flow to the placenta, separation of the placenta from the uterine wall, and eclampsia (seizures.)  HELLP syndrome, characterized by elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count, is life threatening to the mother and baby.  The only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.  Most women with preeclampsia deliver healthy babies; however, some premature babies may not survive.

Back to Top

Advancements
Research shows that women who took multivitamins and obtained a healthy weight before pregnancy reduced the risk of developing preeclampsia by more than 70%.  Other research revealed that women with high levels of two types of protein in their blood were more likely to develop preeclampsia.  Researchers are conducting more studies to determine prevention measures and ways to identify women with the greatest risk of preeclampsia.

Back to Top

 

Copyright ©  - iHealthSpot, Inc. - www.iHealthSpot.com

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.