What do Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, and Mariah Carey have in common? Aside from being ridiculously rich and famous? They all experienced preeclampsia in their pregnancies. This known but not known constraint in pregnancy holds an impact on the health of the gestator and the growth of the baby.
What is Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a condition occurring in pregnancy brought on by high blood pressure, edema in the face, hands and feet, and protein in the urine. Although preeclampsia occurs in about 3-7% of pregnancies, the exact cause is unknown.
There are factors that make a person susceptible to an onset of preeclampsia:
- A previous history of preeclampsia with births (although highest with first pregnancies)
- Individuals over the age of 35
- Black birthing individuals are at a higher risk than other races
- Multiple gestation
- History of medical conditions such as: diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure
- New partner paternity
- Thyroid disease
Physical Symptoms of Preeclampsia
The onset of preeclampsia can often be recognized by the symptoms that present themselves, generally after 20 weeks gestation. The most common symptom is high blood pressure. Typically the caution range is 140/90. Additional symptoms may include:
- Severe headaches
- Blurry vision
- Shortness of breath
- Decrease in urination
If you are 20 weeks gestation or greater, and experiencing any combination of the above symptoms, notify your provider with your concern. Preeclampsia is diagnosed by your provider by ultrasound, a nonstress test, or a biophysical profile. These assessments allow your provider to look at baby’s amniotic fluid levels, growth rate, baby’s heart rate, and track baby’s movement.
How is it Treated
Found early, treatment can keep preeclampsia from developing into a severe case or prompting early delivery of the baby. At routine prenatal appointments, blood pressure and urinalysis are conducted regularly to monitor preeclampsia. Keeping on top of fetal kick counts is another way to self monitor your body to keep the condition at bay. Delivery is the most common form of treatment for preeclampsia when a baby is past 37 weeks gestation. In severe cases, medications may be administered, bed rest may be assigned, and ultimately delivery of the baby.
How Might It Impact Birth
Because preeclampsia is a constraint in pregnancy that greatly impacts the gestating individual and the fetus, it is a condition not to be ignored. The complications that may be brought on with preeclampsia include:
- Restriction in fetal growth (inadequate oxygen and blood to fetus)
- Preterm birth (baby born before 37 weeks gestation)
- Placental abruption (placenta separating from the uterine wall before delivery)
- HELLP syndrome (can become life-threatening for carrier and baby)
- Eclampsia (preeclampsia accompanied by seizures)
Due to the nature of severity that it can impact on the baby and the body, one may be encouraged to deliver the baby as soon as possible after “full-term” (37 weeks+ of baby). Even though cesarean birth may be encouraged, vaginal births can still be achieved.
Being in tune with one’s body can help know when red flags occur. This condition is not to be taken lightly, and if you suspect that more is going on than what is “normal”, speak up! Keep speaking up until someone hears you.