May is National Preeclampsia Awareness Month and is estimated to affect at least 5-8% of all pregnancies. Education is power, and that is what this awareness campaign is all about. Knowing the signs and having an open line of communication with your physician can save the life of you and your baby!
What is Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and her unborn baby. It is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms to watch for, however, some women report very few symptoms.
Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation and up to six weeks postpartum, though in rare cases it can occur earlier than 20 weeks. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. If you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Preeclampsia, you should call one of our offices immediately! Early detection gives you and your unborn baby the best chances for the best possible outcome.
Research published in the April 2015 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that 60% of preeclampsia-related maternal deaths were deemed preventable. Patients play a very important role in preventing preeclampsia-related deaths as the leading patient factors among preeclampsia deaths were first, a delay in seeking care, second, a presumed lack of knowledge regarding the severity of a symptom or condition, and lastly, an underlying medical condition.
Symptoms of Preeclampsia
Knowing the symptoms is essential! If you experience any of the following symptoms during your pregnancy or after delivery, call your doctor right away. Having symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have preeclampsia, but they are cause for concern and require a medical evaluation.
- Swelling of the hands and face, especially around the eyes (swelling of the feet is more common in late pregnancy and probably not a sign of preeclampsia)
- Weight gain of more than five pounds in a week
- Headache that won’t go away, even after taking medication such as acetaminophen
- Changes in vision like seeing spots or flashing lights; partial or total loss of eyesight
- Nausea or throwing up, especially suddenly, after mid pregnancy (not the morning sickness that many women experience in early pregnancy)
- Upper right belly pain, sometimes mistaken for indigestion or the flu
- Difficulty breathing, gasping, or panting
It’s also important to remember that some women with preeclampsia have NO symptoms or they “just don’t feel right.” If you have a sense that something is wrong, even without symptoms, trust your intuition and contact your physician immediately.