What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a complication that occurs during pregnancy. It is related to pregnancy-induced hypertension and is associated with high levels of protein in the urine, or proteinuria.

Preeclampsia can occur in up to 10% of pregnancies and usually occurs in the second and third trimester, from week 32 onwards. It is more common in first-time mothers and decreases in the second pregnancy. The risk is higher in women whose families have previously had preeclampsia. However, the greatest risk for preeclampsia is having had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy. It is more frequent in women with hypertension and diabetes prior to pregnancy, pregnancies in patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus, in patients with thrombophilias, renal insufficiency, obesity and multiple pregnancies. It is also almost twice as common in black women.

Preeclampsia is a complication that can occur during pregnancy.

Prognosis of the disease

Preeclampsia is more than high blood pressure during pregnancy, which damages the kidneys and causes protein to be lost in the urine. However, it not only damages the kidneys during pregnancy, but also affects other organs such as the liver, brain and blood. It is a complication that must be controlled, otherwise the life of the baby and the mother may be in danger. Although nowadays mortality and complications derived from preeclampsia are not so frequent, good medical control and adequate and timely treatment are essential.

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?

Normally, a pregnant woman with preeclampsia does not feel sick, but she may have symptoms such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in the urine
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swelling of the face or eyes and hands

If preeclampsia is severe, you may have the following symptoms:

  • Headaches that do not go away
  • Abdominal pain on the right side, below the ribs
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Infrequent urination
  • Temporary loss of vision, flashing dots or lights, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light

Medical tests for preeclampsia

Regular prenatal checkups with your OB/GYN specialist will help monitor your blood pressure and urine levels. In addition, blood tests can show if the patient is suffering from preeclampsia. Other tests include kidney function and blood clotting checks, as well as an ultrasound to assess the baby’s health and a Doppler ultrasound to establish the efficiency of blood flow to the placenta.

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What are the causes of preeclampsia?

There are a number of risk factors that may predispose to preeclampsia in pregnancy:

Genetic-related risk factors:

  • Family history with preeclampsia in any pregnancy.
  • Preeclampsia in previous pregnancies.

Risk factors related to the mother:

  • Advanced age of the mother or, conversely, in adolescent mothers.
  • Being a first-time mother.
  • Obesity or diabetes in the mother.
  • Smoking.
  • Stress.
  • Immunological diseases, coagulation disorders or renal diseases.
  • Suffering from chronic arterial hypertension.
  • Suffering from thrombophilias.

Risk factors related to pregnancy:

  • That the patient has congenital fetal anomalies.
  • Multiple pregnancy.
  • Having urinary tract infections during pregnancy.

Can preeclampsia be prevented?

The best way to prevent preeclampsia is for every pregnant woman to have early and proper pregnancy checks. In addition, you should:

  • Take blood pressure after week 20 on a regular basis, to detect any high point.
  • Control if the patient gains weight excessively.
  • Do studies to measure uric acid, urea and creatinine.
  • Do urinalysis, to locate if there is proteinuria.
  • Do platelet count.
  • Test for elevated hemoglobin and hematocrit.
  • Perform a Doppler flow of the utero-placental artery.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Eat a diet rich in calcium.
  • Take folic acid supplements.
  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E.

What is the treatment for preeclampsia?

The only solution to end preeclampsia is delivery, usually by induction or cesarean section. Before pregnancy, it is important to do a good follow-up. If the pre-eclampsia is mild, it can be done from home by taking the following measures:

  • Resting in bed
  • Lying on your left side
  • Eat less salt
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Taking medication to lower blood pressure (in some cases).
  • Frequent visits to the doctor

In more severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to monitor the patient and baby more closely. This may include:

  • Careful monitoring
  • Medications to control blood pressure
  • Steroid injections to help speed up the baby’s lung development in pregnancies of less than 34 weeks gestation.

Which specialist treats it?

The specialist who treats preeclampsia is the expert in Gynecology and Obstetrics, who performs regular prenatal checkups to detect it as early as possible and establish appropriate treatment.