Please note this article is written mostly because of my personal experience, however I have obtained this information from authoritive websites for the facts.
What is Pre-Eclampsia?
“Pre-eclampsia is a medical condition in which hypertension arises in pregnancy (pregnancy-induced hypertension) in association with significant amounts of protein in the urine.” Quoted from Wikipedia. In laymen terms that means when you have high blood pressure during pregnancy as well as protein in your urine. Sometimes during pregnancy you may just get high blood pressure, if there is no protein then it is not considered pre-eclampsia.
There are other associated symptoms of pre-eclampsia which include:
Oedema (swelling) Note: Some swelling of the feet and ankles is considered normal with pregnancy.
Sudden weight gain
Nausea or vomiting
Abdominal and/or shoulder pain
Lower back pain
Changes in vision
Pre-eclampsia may also occur up to six weeks post-partum.
It has not yet been established what the exact cause of pre-eclampsia is. What happens is during pregnancy the placenta needs a large supply of blood from the mother in order to sustain the growing baby. When pre-eclampsia develops it seems that the placenta doesn’t get enough blood supply for its needs. When this happens, damage to the mother’s blood vessels follows, which then leads to the increase in the blood pressure. This in turn also disrupts kidney function and blood proteins leak from the mothers’ blood circulation through the kidney and into the urine. As pre-eclampsia gets worse, other organs of the mother can also be affected, such as the liver, lungs, brain, heart & the blood clotting system.
Pre-eclampsia can then develop dangerous complications such as eclampsia (convulsions), strokes, pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lungs from heart failure), kidney failure, liver damage and thinning of the blood. These complications are fortunately rare.
Who is at risk?
It is hard to predict who will develop pre-eclampsia but pre-eclampsia is more likely in women who:
Have had pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy
Live in a developing country
Are pregnant for the first time; or have been pregnant before, but have become pregnant with a new partner after a short (< six months) period of unprotected (without a condom) intercourse.
Have medical problems such as diabetes, vascular disease (blood vessel disease), kidney disease or a history of high blood pressure
Are daughters or sisters of women who have had pre-eclampsia
Are expecting more than one baby - that is, twins, triplets etc.
Have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or more
Are aged 40 or over.
There are two main symptoms which confirm the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia:
1. High blood pressure (blood pressure greater than 140/90 mm Hg) as well as protein in the urine (more than 0.3 grams/24 hours) in a woman who was previously had normal blood pressures.
Additional factors must sometimes be considered due to the fact that high blood pressure alone is not sufficient for the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia to be made.
Apart from Caesarean section or induction of labour (and therefore delivery of the placenta), there is no known cure. It is the most common of the dangerous pregnancy complications; it may affect both the mother and the unborn child.
If your baby is not fully developed and you have mild preeclampsia, the disease can often be managed at home until your baby has a good chance of surviving after delivery.
The doctor will probably recommend the following:
Getting bed rest at home, lying on your left side most or all of the time
Drinking extra glasses of water a day and eating less salt
Following-up with your doctor more often to make sure you and your baby are doing well
Taking medicines to lower your blood pressure (in some cases)
My personal experience
Around the 15th December 2009 (EDD: Valentine’s Day 2010) I was approximately 30 weeks pregnant when my feet started to swell. Up until this point I’d had a perfect pregnancy and everything was a breeze. My gynae didn’t seem too concerned as it was the middle of summer & very hot. We travelled from Gauteng to KZN for the December holidays & this only seemed to worsen the swelling.
On the night of the 1st of January 2010 was the first night my pains & trouble started. I woke during the night in a bit of pain & really struggling to sleep. If I sat upright my abdominal area would hurt and if I lay down my back would hurt. The only way for me to be comfy was to stand & rock against a cool wall.
A week later at my next check up the gynae told me she was worried I was developing pre-eclampsia and put me on bed rest. As I work from home this wasn’t a problem. I spent most days working from bed, however still did things like the washing, cooking, basic cleaning.
(Please note: when your doc says bed rest, they mean BED REST). A week later we went for another check up on the Thursday afternoon at 5pm. The gynae immediately told me I had in fact developed pre-eclampsia as I had all the symptoms mentioned in this article, the feet swelling, protein in my urine, blurry spots in front of my eyes, extreme headaches, abdominal aches, and my BP was 161/114 and normal BP is 110/70 to 120/80. She admitted me to hospital immediately and said I would be in hospital till my baby was born and that would more than likely be the next day.
That night I was given meds & monitored through the night. The next day I was induced and my baby girl was born that evening via natural birth. I was very fortunate to be able to have a natural birth as most gynae’s would push/enforce a c/section. I only wish I had known to take more bed rest as my princess was in NICU for 12 days as her lungs just weren’t quite ready yet.