What you need to know about pre-eclampsia
As an expectant Kentucky mom, you likely view your health and that of your developing baby as your top priority. If so, then you should see your OB/GYN frequently during your pregnancy. Keep in mind that (s)he needs to monitor your pregnancy’s progress and be on the lookout for any potential problems and/or complications.
Pre-eclampsia represents a fairly frequent pregnancy complication that could pose catastrophic health risks for both you and your baby, up to and including death. It occurs as a result of two things: high blood pressure, aka hypertension, and protein in urine, aka proteinuria. If your family has a history of hypertension, be sure to tell your doctor at your first prenatal visit. (S)he may prescribe medications to control your blood pressure during your pregnancy. (S)he will also check your blood pressure during each of your prenatal visits. As for proteinuria, there is no way to diagnose it without doing a urinalysis. Your doctor therefore likely will request you to give him or her a urine sample at each prenatal visit.
One of the biggest pre-eclampsia red flags is the sudden, substantial swelling of your hands, feet, ankles, legs and face. While virtually all pregnant women suffer some swelling, especially of their feet and ankles, pre-eclampsia swelling is different. Not only does it come on suddenly, you also may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain right below your ribs on your right side
- Vomiting more severe and persistent than that caused by morning sickness
- Blurry vision
- “Seeing” flashing lights
- Severe headaches
- Shortness of breath
In addition, you may have difficulties urinating or you may “swell up” overnight. Any of these symptoms necessitates an immediate call to your doctor’s office.
Be aware that pre-eclampsia has no cure. It goes away on its own once you deliver your baby or shortly thereafter. During your pregnancy, however, your doctor likely will recommend plenty of bed rest, more so as your pregnancy progresses into its third trimester. (S)he also likely will recommend staying off your feet as much as possible and elevating your feet and legs while sitting.
Unfortunately, pre-eclampsia tends to worsen over time. If yours becomes too severe, your doctor may hospitalize you and put you on complete 24/7 bed rest. Both you and your baby will receive constant monitoring during this period. In addition, you likely will undergo constant blood and urine tests, and your baby likely will receive both a fetal ultrasound and a nonstress test.
If even hospitalization fails to control your pre-eclampsia, both you and your baby face risk of death. In such a situation, your doctor undoubtedly will recommend either inducing labor or performing an immediate C-section, even if this means your baby will come into the world prematurely. As with so many medical emergencies, severe pre-eclampsia calls for extraordinary interventions that no doctor would otherwise recommend or perform.