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Understanding Preeclampsia


Preeclampsia accounts for 2 to 8% of pregnancy-related complications. Learn the causes and symptoms of preeclampsia and what to expect if you’ve been diagnosed with it.

What Is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and damage to organs, most often the liver and kidneys. It typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy.

It can lead to serious complications for both you and the baby, including premature birth and low birth weight. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening.

Causes of Preeclampsia

While the exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, experts believe it develops when there is a problem with the placenta, the organ that connects the fetus to the mother's uterine wall and supplies the baby with nutrients and oxygen.

During a healthy pregnancy, blood vessels in the placenta widen to allow for increased blood flow to the fetus. However, in preeclampsia, the blood vessels in the placenta don't widen as they should, which can lead to reduced blood flow and oxygen to the fetus, and a buildup of toxins in the mother's bloodstream.

Managing Preeclampsia

If preeclampsia is diagnosed early and the pregnancy is not yet full term, your healthcare provider may recommend close monitoring of you and the baby and may prescribe medication to lower blood pressure and prevent seizures. Bed rest may also be recommended. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary to closely monitor and manage the condition.

If the condition is severe or if there is a risk to you or the baby, delivery may be recommended, even if the baby is premature. In cases where the baby is not yet mature enough to survive outside the womb, you may be given medication to help mature the baby's lungs before delivery.

After delivery, your blood pressure usually returns to normal within a few days, and the symptoms of preeclampsia usually disappear. However, some women may experience complications after delivery, such as postpartum preeclampsia or stroke, so continued monitoring and follow-up care is important.

Preeclampsia FAQ

How do you know if you have preeclampsia?

The diagnosis of preeclampsia is typically made through regular prenatal checkups. Your healthcare provider will monitor your blood pressure and urine protein levels during these checkups. They will also look for other signs and symptoms, including swelling, headaches, vision changes, and upper abdominal pain.

What causes high blood pressure during pregnancy?

High blood pressure during pregnancy may be part of a pre-existing condition or directly related to the pregnancy.

Chronic hypertension: High blood pressure that is present before pregnancy or develops before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Women with chronic hypertension may have an increased risk of developing preeclampsia.
Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia: This is a condition that occurs in women with chronic hypertension who develop preeclampsia during pregnancy.
Gestational hypertension: High blood pressure that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away within 12 weeks of delivery. There is no protein in the urine with this condition. However, there is an increased risk of developing preeclampsia.

Learn below the risk factors, symptoms and long-term complications of preeclampsia, as well as what to expect with treatment and recovery.

Maternal Fetal Medicine at Crystal Run Healthcare

The fellowship-trained Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists at Crystal Run Healthcare utilize the most advanced diagnostic and therapeutic techniques to provide optimal care for those experiencing high-risk pregnancies. Schedule an appointment in New York today to speak with our compassionate, experienced team.



Understanding Preeclampsia Infographic

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