Pre-eclampsia is a high blood pressure condition that only occurs in pregnancy. It can occur anytime after 20 weeks but is more common during the last few weeks of pregnancy. If a woman has high blood pressure and protein in her urine, she will be diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. Other symptoms can include liver or kidney abnormalities, persistent headaches and vision changes.
When can it be diagnosed?
Pre-eclampsia can progress at a slow or rapid pace and symptoms can be mild and severe. Severe symptoms can cause life-threatening complications if they’re not diagnosed and treated quickly. Your GP and obstetrician will screen you every prenatal visit. This is done by checking your blood pressure and doing a urine sample to check for protein.
How can it affect my pregnancy?
The earlier pre-eclampsia appears in pregnancy, the more severe the symptoms, and the higher the risk to baby and mum. In most cases mild symptoms are experienced near to due date, and with proper care both mum and baby are fine.
Organs can be affected and can cause serious or life-threatening consequences. In severe cases, your obstetrician will deliver your baby early.
What exactly happens?
Pre-eclampsia restricts the body’s blood flow, causing high blood pressure. This can affect vital organs in your body such as your brain, liver and kidneys. Also with less blood flowing to your uterus, it can cause problems for your baby.
Problems for the baby include:
- Stunted growth
- Placental abruption
- A lack of amniotic fluid surrounding your baby
If symptoms are severe and your baby is delivered early in pregnancy, premature birth can also have affects on your baby.
If you think you have the symptoms of pre-eclampsia contact your maternity hospital or GP as soon as possible.