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Pre-Eclampsia Warning Signs

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 1 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Pre-eclampsia Eclampsia Doctor Midwife

Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that can occur during pregnancy. The exact causes are still unclear and it can strike any pregnant women at any time. But what exactly is it and what are the symptoms?

The pregnancy condition pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that causes high blood pressure and can damage the mother’s liver kidney, brain and placenta. In some cases it can also cause harm to the baby as well and put the lives of both mum and baby at risk. A mild form of pre-eclampsia affects one in 10 people each year and the more severe form affects one in 50 people. Most cases occur in the third trimester, near the end of pregnancy. The exact cause is unknown, but research suggests that involves a problem with the blood vessels in the placenta, which causes high blood pressure.

Some women are more at risk of developing pre-eclampsia than others, especially:

  • Women in their first pregnancy.

  • Women pregnant for the first time by a new partner.

  • Women who’ve had pre-eclampsia before.

  • Women whose mums or sisters have had pre-eclampsia.

  • Women aged over 35 years old.

  • Women expecting twins or multiples.

  • Women with chronic illnesses, such as kidney problems, migraine, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Causes and Symptoms of Pre Eclampsia

One of the problems with pre-eclampsia is that, in the early stages, there may be no symptoms at all and a woman may feel perfectly fine. It’s not until routine blood pressure checks or urine tests are done that the condition is discovered. This is one reason why it’s crucial you attend all your routine antenatal appointments.

Some women suffer from swelling of the ankles, face or hands – called oedema – in the early stages too. If you experience any swelling it’s important to get it checked out as soon as it occurs. In the majority of cases it may well just be down to the pregnancy itself, which often causes swollen ankles, but it’s best to be on the safe side.

As pre-eclampsia develops more serious symptoms occur, such as headaches, abdominal pain, shoulder pain, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred and altered vision. Again, if you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, tell your doctor.

The problem with pre-eclampsia is that it can develop into serious – and sometimes deadly – complications. These include eclampsia, which can cause convulsions, kidney failure and a HELLP syndrome, where the liver is affected and red blood cells break down.

Treatment for Pre-Eclampsia

In the past, the main treatment, especially with severe pre-eclampsia and to stop it developing into eclampsia was to deliver the baby, even if premature. Once pre-eclampsia is confirmed, treatment revolves around trying to lower blood pressure, which results in the need for a lot of bed rest and medication. It doesn’t cure the condition, but it can keep it at bay. A new treatment, however, involving an injection of magnesium sulphate is now being used and can halve the risk of it continuing into full blown eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition, so if you’ve got any worries about it, or are concerned about symptoms you’re experiencing, always consult your doctor.

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I'm five months pregnant and when I pass urine I feel this bad pain and afterwards, I'm always going to the toilet, maybe 25 times a day and I'm so tired. Is it normal?
popla - 17-Apr-11 @ 1:56 PM
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