Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs solely during pregnancy and the postpartum period. It affects 5-8% of all pregnancies and it impacts both the mother and the unborn baby.
Typically, preeclampsia is diagnosed by high blood pressure in addition to proteins present in the urine. It is a rapidly progressing disorder that usually develops after 20 weeks gestation and up to six weeks postpartum. Globally, preeclampsia is the leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death.
It is still unknown what causes preeclampsia; however, throughout the last decade, there have been several breakthrough studies that maybe help us to discover the cause.
Additionally, these studies may help to improve diagnosis and prevention of the disorder. Some of the more prominent theories focus on the placenta and believe the disorder occurs in two stages.
In the first stage, the placenta produces proteins and other compounds that enter the maternal bloodstream leading to the second stage.
The second stage consists of high blood pressure and blood clotting abnormalities in the mother during her pregnancy and the postpartum period. Since these studies are in the preliminary stages they still need to undergo a significant amount of research.
Until we have concrete evidence as to what causes preeclampsia, it is important that you practice good prenatal care and undergo the necessary tests to detect preeclampsia. The earlier that preeclampsia is diagnosed, the easier it is to manage. Once a patient is diagnosed with preeclampsia, their physician will regularly monitor their blood pressure and order necessary laboratory tests throughout the pregnancy.
While high blood pressure and protein present in urine are the most common symptoms of preeclampsia, there are others that can be detected as well.
Additional symptoms to keep an eye out for are swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches, and changes in vision. Often times, many of these symptoms go unreported by mothers who are affected by preeclampsia. If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of preeclampsia during your pregnancy, you should speak with your physician immediately.
May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month for more information or ways to get involved visit www.preeclampsia.org.
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