Preeclampsia During Pregnancy

Preeclampsia is something that we have likely all heard of. We know that taking blood pressure every appointment and discussing whether you are swelling or having headaches are all screening for it, but what is preeclampsia, and how does it impact pregnancy and childbirth?
Preeclampsia is the warning your body gives before developing eclampsia, which can be deadly. Frequently, preeclampsia becomes known with a sudden spike in blood pressure with readings higher than 140/90, protein in the urine, headaches that do not go away with treatment, changes in vision, nausea, shortness of breath, and abdominal pain. The one thing that all these symptoms are trying to say is that the liver and kidney body systems are not doing well. Preeclampsia impacts about 2-8 percent of all pregnancies and can occur as early as 20 weeks gestation but more commonly occurs in the last few months of pregnancy. 
Although there are no guaranteed ways to control whether someone develops preeclampsia, some things put specific individuals at a higher risk. Some risk factors include being a first-time parent, having a history of hypertension or preeclampsia, a family history of preeclampsia, multiple gestation pregnancy, being young or older, individuals with a history of high blood pressure or kidney disease, and obesity. 
Even though there are no sure-fire ways to avoid preeclampsia, there are some things that individuals can do that might be correlated to avoiding it. There are many ways to prevent preeclampsia and give yourself more self-care during pregnancy. One of the things that might help is getting a good amount of sleep. Eating whole foods high in protein and low in salt and drinking about 6-8 cups of water daily are other excellent tips. Regular exercise (nothing strenuous) is another thing that can sometimes help with prevention. One thing that many care providers recommend is taking a daily baby aspirin. Antidotally, care providers have seen baby aspirin lessen the occurrence of preeclampsia by up to 15 percent.
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If you develop symptoms of preeclampsia in pregnancy, your care providers will want to monitor you closely. This could look like extra blood work, monitoring blood pressure more often, urine tests, additional prenatal appointments, and more ultrasounds. In cases where someone develops preeclampsia early in pregnancy, they could be hospitalized until it is safe enough to induce labor. Care providers will also give you things you can do at home, like eating less salt, eating more protein, stopping caffeine consumption, exercising daily, and more. If you develop preeclampsia in the last few weeks of pregnancy, induction is likely, as it is often safer for a baby to be delivered than for pregnancy to continue. The only true way to treat preeclampsia is by having a baby. Routinely, individuals with preeclampsia will be on a magnesium drip during labor and postpartum to help prevent eclampsia from developing.
Preeclampsia can have an impact not just on the birthing parent but also on the fetus. Some of these impacts are early labor and delivery, small gestation size, and the placenta not getting enough blood flow. There are also more long-term risks, including developmental delays, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, deafness, and, in some cases, blindness. The good news is that, in most cases, infants born to parents with preeclampsia go on to lead regular lives.
The best way to ensure you are not developing symptoms of preeclampsia is to be monitored regularly by your care provider. Going to regular prenatal appointments during pregnancy and getting under a care provider early on can give birthing parents more options for preeclampsia prevention and proper monitoring to enhance the safety of the birthing parent and unborn child(ren). Remember that anyone can develop preeclampsia, and it does not impact a parent's worth. It is just a condition that can affect pregnancy and is important to know about.
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