Table of Contents
Definition of Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia, sometimes called toxemia of pregnancy, is more common in a first pregnancy and in pregnant women who are under age 20 or over age 40 and in women who have diabetes, kidney disease, or hypertension when they become pregnant.
Preeclampsia also seems to run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition. For the most part, however, doctors do not know what causes preeclampsia to develop. In about 10 percent of women preeclampsia progresses to eclampsia, in which seizures occur and which is life-threatening for the woman and the fetus she carries.
Signs and Symptoms
The primary symptoms of preeclampsia are
- Edema (swelling due to fluid retention)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Disturbances of vision (blurred or double vision)
- Ringing in the ears or other auditory disturbances
The elevation in blood pressure tends to occur as a surge, most commonly in the second and third trimesters. Most often the doctor detects preeclampsia in its early stages through regular prenatal care visits and monitoring.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment with antihypertensive medications to lower blood pressure can often prevent complications from developing. The doctor may also recommend reduced activity or bedrest to help keep blood pressure down.
Childbirth is the most effective treatment. When preeclampsia is moderate to severe and the pregnancy is 37 weeks or beyond, the doctor may induce labor or perform a cesarean section (surgical childbirth). Many women who have preeclampsia are able to go through labor and delivery without additional risk to the fetus or themselves.
See also GESTATIONAL DIABETES.
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