Diagnosing Preeclampsia: Labs, Treatment and Causes

If you are pregnant or are considering trying to conceive, you may have heard about preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, a blood pressure disorder, may only affect seven to 10 percent of pregnancies in the United States, but it poses serious risks to both mother and baby. 

We want all of our patients to be as informed as possible, so read our Q&A to learn if you could be suffering or at risk of preeclampsia. 

What is preeclampsia?

Occurring after 20 weeks of pregnancy, when suffering from preeclampsia a woman will exhibit high-blood pressure and damage to several organs. The root of preeclampsia, high blood pressure, or hypertension, happens when the force of the blood flowing to the arteries is too strong. Hypertension, especially for pregnant women, can result in further health issues if untreated.

Typically women will have preeclampsia when pregnant, but it can also occur following childbirth.

Am I at risk for preeclampsia?

If you have high blood pressure and are either pregnant or trying to conceive, you are at risk for preeclampsia and should consult with us. 

Even if you don’t have high blood pressure or a history of hypertension, you could still get preeclampsia. Some women develop hypertension during pregnancy, referred to as gestational hypertension. 

There are also factors other than hypertension that could put you at risk for preeclampsia. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • If you are younger than 20 or older than 40 years old.
  • It’s your first pregnancy
  • You have underwent in vitro fertilization
  • You have a history of various other diseases such as diabetes
  • You are overweight
  • You had a short or long interval of time between pregnancies. 

Some women are not aware they suffer from hypertension, which is why we recommend you visit us for regular prenatal care.

How can I tell if I might have preeclampsia?

Other than high blood pressure, there are a number of symptoms of preeclampsia. 

The symptoms you can check for at home include severe headaches, vision changes, pain in the upper abdomen, difficulty breathing and swelling in your face or hands.

At our office we will check for symptoms including protein in your urine, low platelet count, elevated liver enzymes and problems with organ function.

Why should I worry about preeclampsia?

If you leave your preeclampsia untreated it could result in potentially fatal seizures or HELLP syndrome, a rare complication resulting in liver failure.

Preeclampsia is also one of the most common causes of premature births. 

How do you treat preeclampsia/hypertension in pregnant women?

As with any disorder, we determine the treatment plan based on the patient and the severity of the condition. For most cases of preeclampsia, we will suggest frequent monitoring of your blood pressure and regular testing, fetal heart rate monitoring and fetal ultrasounds.

If you are suffering from more severe hypertension or preeclampsia, we may explore a number of medications, hospitalization or induced labor.

Preeclampsia and hypertension while pregnant are very serious conditions. Please call or visit us if you have questions or concerns about these conditions.

 

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