What you need to know about preeclampsia

Of the many fears that arise during pregnancy, probably one of the situations that most frightens women is suffering from preeclampsia and its complications. The concern is reasonable: according to a report by the General Directorate of Epidemiology of the Mexican Ministry of Health, hypertensive diseases, such as preeclampsia, are one of the main causes of maternal death in that country.

Leonardo Ávila, a gynecologist at the Spanish Hospital, explains that it is a state of pregnancy that can cause hypertension. It usually presents after the 20th week of gestation. Women who suffer from it show signs of proteinuria (presence of protein in the urine) and arterial values greater than 90/140.

According to the World Health Organization, preeclampsia is one of the leading causes of maternal death in developing countries.

If a pregnant woman has preeclampsia and it is not detected or treated early, the results can be severe. Ávila points out, “It usually causes organ damage, kidney failure, and brain hemorrhages. It can also restrict the baby’s growth or cause the pregnancy to be terminated early, so the baby is not always viable. In the worst cases, preeclampsia can lead to the death of mother and child”.

Risk factors for preeclampsia

So far, there are no certainties regarding the risk factors that can predispose women to this disease; however, there is some consensus around some characteristics that could be related. Among them are:

  • Getting pregnant at the extremes of reproductive life. It has been found that many of the women who suffer from this disease are under 18 or over 36.
  • Various studies worldwide have indicated that obesity is more common among women with preeclampsia than even other factors, such as genetics. On the other hand, obesity is a condition that is usually associated with hypertension.
  • Thyroid disorders. Some patients with thyroid gland problems, especially hypothyroidism, are prone to preeclampsia or other hypertensive states during pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other organs, most often the liver and kidneys. Photo: Pixabay
Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other organs, most often the liver and kidneys.
Photo: Pixabay

How do I know if I have preeclampsia?

To find out, it is essential to go to pregnancy monitoring appointments. In them, your doctor will carry out routine check-ups that can show signs that would help detection, such as monitoring your blood pressure, checking for signs of vasospasm, and confirming that there are no high levels of protein or nitrogen, or toxins in your blood. He will also ask you if you have experienced headaches, ringing in the ears, vomiting or nausea, pain in the upper abdomen or if you have seen lights: all these are alarm signals.

Prevention to avoid complications

The way to prevent preeclampsia is through early medical attention. Some experts recommend performing an ultrasound before the tenth week of pregnancy in which the pulsatility index of the uterine arteries is measured. If there is any alteration, the patient will likely present it, so a straightforward preventive treatment will be prescribed to avoid all the complications of this disease.

If detected early, it can be controlled, and your baby could even be born at 40 weeks. “The most important thing is to make an early diagnosis, give specific antihypertensive medications for this stage, and continuously monitor the baby. However, if he stops growing or there are alterations in the fluids, that is, if little blood arrives, the pregnancy must be terminated, regardless of whether the person is under control”, Ávila points out. Despite this, there are many success stories, “The pregnancy can come to term. Even women with preeclampsia can give birth”. Do not miss your medical appointments; continuous monitoring is essential for your health and that of your baby.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version

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