What is Preeclampsia?Pregnancy
You’ve just come from a routine prenatal appointment and your doctor or midwife has suggested you be admitted into hospital for observation or suggests bed rest, medication, and blood pressure monitoring at home. You don’t feel ‘sick!’ You’re scared and confused when the word preeclampsia is uttered.
What is going on?
Preeclampsia occurs in about 5-8% of all pregnant women. It is a condition that exclusively occurs during pregnancy and is characterized by rising blood pressure, edema, and increasing protein excretion in the urine. Many of the early symptoms seem like regular pregnancy discomforts; however, if preeclampsia goes undiagnosed, it can be particularly dangerous. Remember, it can happen to ANY woman in ANY pregnancy.
Consistent high blood pressure, or pregnancy induced hypertension, is one of the first signs of preeclampsia. The disease is sometimes referred to as a ‘silent killer’ because you don’t know your blood pressure is increasing unless you’re testing it daily. Your practitioner may encourage you to familiarize yourself with the warning signs and early symptoms after your 20th week of pregnancy. Education is one of the most powerful tools in recognizing and treating preeclampsia.
What you should know…
Advancing signs of preeclampsia include headaches, seizures, visual disturbances, swelling of the hands and face, abdominal pain, and bloody urine. Seek immediate medical attention if you should experience these symptoms! Oftentimes, the delivery of your baby is necessary in order to stop the severity of this disease.
In rare cases, you may experience high blood pressure after delivery and during the early postpartum period. This is known as postpartum preeclampsia. As this can occur between a few days up to six weeks after having your baby, report any of the above symptoms to your health care provider and seek medical attention immediately. Postpartum preeclampsia is treated with blood pressure medication, with prescriptions that will not affect your ability to breastfeed, if you have chosen to do so. Know your risk factors.
We encourage you to learn more about our "What in the World" series. Please see our A to Z index for a whole host of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting information and terminology.
Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified labour and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.