Preeclampsia is a condition that can generate risks for both mother and child in the later stages of pregnancy and the first few weeks after birth. Characterized as a progressive, high-blood-pressure condition during pregnancy, preeclampsia typically occurs after 20 weeks of gestation and up to 6 weeks after delivery.

Symptoms of Preeclampsia Include:

  • Sudden weight gain (more than five pounds in a week)

  • Chronic headaches with no relief from medication

  • Swelling of the hands and face

  • Vision changes, such as seeing flashing lights or spots or losing eyesight

  • Sudden nausea and vomiting during the last trimester

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Pain in the upper right section of the abdomen

  • Lower back pain

  • Protein in urine

In some cases, women will not experience any symptoms of preeclampsia but still have increased risks. Because many of the signs and symptoms of this condition resemble those of a normal pregnancy, it is important to recognize factors that put expectant mothers at higher risk.

Some expectant mothers and their children are more at risk than others for preeclampsia. Risk factors that may contribute to the development of preeclampsia during pregnancy include:

  • Family history – Women with family members who have had preeclampsia can have elevated risk for preeclampsia.
  • Age – Pregnant women over the age of 35

  • First pregnancy – Chances of developing preeclampsia are highest during a woman’s first pregnancy.

  • Obesity – Pregnant women who are severely overweight (BMI > 30) are at a higher risk of developing the condition.

  • Interval between pregnancies – Pregnancies less than 2 years or more than 10 years apart increase the risk.

  • New partner – Having a pregnancy with a different partner than with previous children can put mothers at increased risk.

  • Multiples pregnancies – Preeclampsia is more common with expectant mothers of multiple children.

  • History of other conditions – Other blood pressure conditions, diabetes, lupus and kidney disease can all make a woman more susceptible to preeclampsia.

  • In Vitro Fertilization – Patients with an IVF pregnancy have an increased risk.

  • Race – Patients of African American ancestry have incidence of preeclampsia and bear a greater burden of complications from this disorder

According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, each year, preeclampsia and other hypertensive conditions are responsible for 76,000 maternal deaths and 500,00 infant deaths around the world. If left untreated, the condition can cause many complications such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease – Increases risk for stroke and heart attack

  • HELLP (hemolysis elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count) syndrome – A rapidly developing, life-threatening syndrome that damages several organ systems

  • Lack of blood flow to the placenta – Results in reduced oxygen flow to the baby and decreased growth

  • Eclampsia – Displays all the symptoms of preeclampsia, but also includes seizures

  • Placental abruption – The placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus

Preventative Medication

The use of low dose aspirin initiated during the second trimester has shown an improvement in health outcomes. The US Preventative Services Task Force has recommended usage of this medication for those at risk.

If you are concerned about developing preeclampsia or feel you may be at risk of other conditions that can develop during pregnancy, call the experts at High Risk Pregnancy Center at (702) 382-3200 to schedule your appointment today.