What is preeclampsia? It is a syndrome that occurs in pregnant women who are hypertensive, that is, those who have high blood pressure. They get swollen legs and a considerable amount of protein spillage into their urine. They may even get convulsions, particularly in the second part of the pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension or toxemia. It is more common in women who are pregnant for the first time and those pregnant by a new husband. However, a second or third pregnancy does not guarantee a preeclampsia-free term. According to a study in Aberdeen, Scotland, almost 1 in 150 women who has had a normal blood pressure during their first pregnancy can get preeclampsia during their second.
The risk is heightened for those who have previously experienced high blood pressure and women who also suffered from preeclampsia before the third trimester.
A family history of diabetes is also cause for concern; women whose sisters, mothers, aunts or grandmothers got preeclampsia should also be careful. Moreover, the possibility of getting preeclampsia increases relative to the woman's age; the older she is, the higher the risk, particularly if the woman is over 40. However, early pregnancies are just as at risk as late ones. Teenage mothers--girls younger than 18--are not exempt.
Other significant factors that may complicate a pregnancy and induce preeclampsia are ovarian cysts, lupus and arthritis. Women who do not have or have never had the aforementioned illnesses should not be so complacent. If symptoms of preeclampsia start manifesting, they should consult their doctor straightaway.
While pregnant women feel all sorts of sensations that are common for their delicate situation, there are certain occurrences that may point to preeclampsia. All these symptoms should never be ignored:
- Frequent dizziness and drowsiness.
- Getting massive headaches.
- Unbearable nausea.
- Hearing incessant buzzing or ringing.
- Throwing up blood.
- Frequent and prolonged vomiting.
- Getting impossibly swollen feet and hands.
- Seldom urinating or not at all.
- Having blood mixed in the urine.
- Irregular, rapid heartbeat.
- Having a high fever.
- Getting blurred or double vision.
- Sudden loss of vision.
It is important to be on the guard because the exact causes of preeclampsia is largely unknown. It does not have one easily identifiable cause, and there is not one test that diagnoses the problem.
When women go to the doctor, the first thing their doctor will do is to take their blood pressure. A large rise is indicative of preeclampsia. Urine tests are performed to measure the protein in the urine. A blood test may also be done. If the woman is exhibiting signs of preeclampsia, the doctor will want to conduct checkups at least once every week, if not every day.
What preeclampsia does is to hinder blood going to the placenta, which is what provides air and food to the baby. Less blood in the placenta means less air and food for the baby, thus a low weight for the newborn.
A good advice to keep in mind for pregnant women is to control their blood pressure. When one is not pregnant, the way to do this is to cut down on her salt intake. If one is however pregnant, the body will need the salt to aid in the flow of fluids. Doctors may recommend aspirin and calcium for preeclampsia prevention or tell women to lie on their left side while taking rest.
If preeclampsia does occur in one pregnancy, it does not entirely spell doom for the mother and child. Women can still deliver babies with perfect health but it is rare. So all these precautions are advisable and will prove that mothers know best if they do heed both the warnings and preventive measures.
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