One condition to watch for is “Preeclampsia” which affects about five percent of pregnant women. Preeclampsia has risen by twenty-five percent over the last twenty years and is a major source of maternal and infant illness and death. Preeclampsia may occur during the last half of pregnancy and also during the postpartum period. This condition affects thousands of women and babies every year and is typically hallmarked by an increase in blood pressure. Although additional protein may be present in the urine (proteinuria), it is no longer a criterion for diagnosing preeclampsia, as many women do not have significant levels of protein present in their urine, which ultimately can delay diagnosis and treatment. Once you reach Week 20, your health care team will be evaluating you at every visit to make sure you are symptom free and not exhibiting any signs of preeclampsia.
One early warning sign of preeclampsia may be a minimal increase in blood pressure. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, rapid weight gain, edema, with swelling in the face, hands and feet, nausea, vomiting, headache, visual disturbances, low back pain and abdominal or shoulder pain.
A woman may be at risk for developing preeclampsia if she has chronic hypertension, a previous pregnancy with a diagnosis of preeclampsia, is aged 35 or beyond, pregnant with multiples, has kidney disease or diabetes, is obese, African American, or has an immune disorder.
If this is your first pregnancy, the symptoms of nausea, vomiting and lower back ache may be present. How do you distinguish these symptoms from the onset of preeclampsia? Every pregnant mom should call her health care team if she experiences any of these symptoms for the first time.
If left untreated, preeclampsia can be dangerous and even fatal for both you and your baby. If you develop blurred vision, severe abdominal pain or severe headaches, call you health care team immediately.
According to the Preeclampsia Foundation:
“When we urge women to trust themselves, we are referring to the intuitive feeling that preeclamptic women often have that “something is not right.” While these feelings may be nothing, it is important for women to report any concerns and for care providers to be diligent, particularly if accompanied by other signs or symptoms.”
For further information regarding the signs, symptoms, care and treatment of preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome, a life-threatening situation which is considered a variant of preeclampsia, please visit the Preeclampsia Foundation and the Mayo Clinic.