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Pre Eclampsia

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Pre-eclampsia affects up to five percent of pregnancies. The condition usually occurs in the latter half of a pregnancy or soon after delivery, although it can appear earlier. The causes of pre-eclampsia aren’t really known but it is thought that problems with the placenta could be to blame.

What are the symptoms?

Pre-eclampsia often doesn’t come with any symptoms whatsoever. The first signs are usually raised blood pressure and an increase of protein in urine. Therefore, it is most likely to be picked up through the routine blood pressure checks and urine tests offered by your midwife during antenatal appointments. f you do experience symptoms these might include headaches, blurred vision, pain underneath your ribs, vomiting or swelling of the face, hands and/or ankles. Any of these symptoms should be reported to your midwife, even if you feel otherwise well.

Increased risk

While pre-eclampsia can affect any pregnant woman, there are some factors that might increase your chances of developing it. These include a family history of pre-eclampsia, having had it during a previous pregnancy, expecting twins or more, obesity, your age – women over 40 are more likely to develop the condition – and whether or not this is your first pregnancy.

Monitoring and treatment

pre eclampsiaThere is only one cure for pre-eclampsia and that is delivering the baby. Obviously this isn’t desirable until you reach full-term so the condition will be closely monitored throughout your pregnancy. Your midwife will refer you to a specialist, usually at your local hospital, and you will either be allowed to go home and attend a series of follow-up appointments or it will be recommended you stay in hospital for monitoring. Your blood pressure and urine will be checked regularly to keep an eye on symptoms getting worse. You’ll also be given blood tests and medication to lower your blood pressure and may be offered an ultrasound scan to make sure your baby is growing well. Your specialist might recommend you stay in hospital until your baby can be delivered. If pre-eclampsia is confirmed, you may be induced or offered a caesarean section at around 37-38 weeks. Delivering the baby at this stage can help reduce the risk of complications from the condition.

Complications

In the vast majority of women there is no increased risk to the pregnancy and birth as a result of pre-eclampsia. However, in rare cases it is possible for complications to occur, particularly if the condition goes undiagnosed and isn’t monitored. These can include eclampsia fits, a liver and blood clotting disorder called HELLP syndrome and increased risk of having a stroke, organ problems or blood clotting. Pre-eclampsia can also contribute to babies developing and growing more slowly in the womb. This means that some are born before they are fully developed and may need to stay in a special care baby unit following the birth. As pre-eclampsia is routinely tested for and is closely monitored these types of situations are rare and most women with the condition will deliver healthy babies and make a full recover themselves soon afterwards.

 

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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