I am sure that somewhere in your lifetime you’ve heard of the condition of preeclampsia. However, if I asked you directly could you describe what it is? Are you aware that it is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality?
Preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy cause 15 percent of all premature births in the United States. To raise awareness about preeclampsia as a life-threatening complication of pregnancy, maternal health organizations around the world are joining forces on May 22nd to raise awareness on World Preeclampsia Day.
World Preeclampsia Day’s theme—“Be prepared before lightning strikes”—highlights the importance of early symptom recognition because preeclampsia can occur quickly and without warning.
All women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant should talk to a health care provider about the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia that may present during pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum.
Preeclampsia can occur any time after the 20th week of pregnancy and is marked by elevated blood pressure and usually—but not always—protein in the urine.
Women should contact a health care provider immediately if any of the following symptoms occurs:
- Severe headache that does not go away even with medication
- Swelling of the face and hands
- Nausea after mid-pregnancy
- Changes in vision (spots, light flashes, blurry or vision loss)
- Upper right belly pain
- Reduced baby movement
While many may think that once you’ve had the baby that you will not need to worry about preeclampsia. Delivery of the baby is the best way to limit the effects of pre-eclampsia. However, the dangers of preeclampsia can still be relevant weeks after the delivery.
Women should take the following actions to monitor their pregnancies and reduce preeclampsia risk:
- Talk to a health care provider before or early in pregnancy about preeclampsia risk
- Attend all prenatal appointments
- Monitor blood pressure and weight regularly, and contact health care provider immediately if either becomes unexpectedly high
- Know family history, especially for pregnancy, high blood pressure and heart disease
- Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
Symptom recognition and timely and effective response remains of the utmost importance to prevent death and/or serious maternal hypertensive disorders. In Montana this is especially true as many people live in rural areas and have to travel long distances for medical treatment.
If you or a loved one is pregnant or is planning to be pregnant, please help share the information about the dangers of preeclampsia and how they can identify the symptoms.
Jacob Christian, DO
SCL Health Medical Group - Butte OB-Gyn