If you are a soon to be mom or planning your first pregnancy, you may or may not have heard about preeclampsia. It's a big word and can be a scary word too until you understand what it means to you and your baby.
Preeclampsia is a condition that can happen in pregnancy with little warning and in fact, it can creep up on you. One of the first signs is an increase in your blood pressure to levels above 140/90. This increase in blood pressure can result in headaches, severe headaches that can affect your vision and create light sensitivity. Nausea and vomiting are not uncommon, decreased urine output with high levels of protein. Another telltale symptom is swelling. Your hands and feet may become swollen with a sudden increase in weight from the extra water. Keep in mind, this can happen with any normal pregnancy but it's important to mention this to your provider so further investigating can take place.
Scientists believe that it is a condition that begins in the placenta. When pregnancy begins, new blood vessels form to help move blood to the placenta, the organ that nourishes your fetus. In some women, these blood vessels are not formed properly. Preeclampsia is one of 4 blood pressure issues that can affect a pregnancy.
Is there a way to avoid preeclampsia? Not really... but scientists are studying possibilities that may help down the road. Some hopeful studies are surfacing in the use of antioxidants and amino acids.
In the meantime...
There are risk factors that you do have control over. Begin your pregnancy in the best possible shape. Make sure any pre-existing health conditions are being managed and controlled such as diabetes, auto-immune diseases such as Arthritis or Lupus, high blood pressure, or obesity. Some factors can not be managed. Sometimes, a first pregnancy can yield greater preeclampsia complications or if a fetus is conceived by IVF.
Medicine is getting better at treating preeclampsia before it creates a life threatening situation for you or your baby. Be proactive. Keep your regular appointments and discuss your risk factors and symptoms with your provider. Healthy practices, bed rest and medications can help protect you until a safe delivery is accomplished.