Preeclampsia: When the Unexpected Happens When You’re Expecting

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Motherhood is a beautiful journey often marked with curiosity, excitement, and fear. At the realization that one is bringing forth life, the search for information on parenthood and what to expect each week begins. Thankfully, the antenatal care services and gynecologists have made the process easier by providing relevant information on nutrition and danger signs and conducting regular weight checks, blood pressure monitoring, urine tests, and occasional blood sugar tests. These to help detect any life-threatening situation that may prevent the mother from carrying her baby to term and sorting it out as soon as possible. Preeclampsia being among them.

Preeclampsia is the most common complication during pregnancy characterized by hypertension after twenty weeks.  It is the second leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality. According to WHO, ten million women across the world develop this condition each year. Unfortunately, 76,000 women get to die from this silent killer and other related hypertensive disorders every year. With such statistics recorded yearly, much needs to be done in awareness creation to help reduce the maternal mortality rate from 362 deaths per 100,00 live births (Kenya Demographic Health Survey Report of 2014).

Early detection is vital for treatment and management. It begins by identifying the risk factors and the signs.

Risk factors for Preeclampsia

  1. First pregnancy
  2. A pregnancy gap of more than ten years
  3. Family or previous history of preeclampsia
  4. Age; getting children above forty years
  5. Having certain conditions and illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and renal disease
  6. Obesity
  7. Multifetal pregnancy
  8. Low levels of education
  9. Low levels of vitamin D
  10. Low plasma levels of Vitamin C. Oxidative stress plays a significant role in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia
  11. New paternity in subsequent pregnancies because of immunological maladaptation

Signs and Symptoms

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Proteinuria (protein detected in urine)
  3. Edema
  4. Blurry vision
  5. Severe headache
  6. Malaise
  7. Vomiting
  8. Rapid weight gain as a result of fluid accumulation
  9. Decreased urine output
  10. Breathing difficulties
  11. Abdominal pain

Immediate reporting of the warning signs is vital. If exposed to any of the risk factors, one should be cautious and adhere to their clinic appointments. If preeclampsia is detected, one should make lifestyle modifications. Try hydrate more, be active, and increase the consumption of healthy, wholesome foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Also, elevate feet to reduce the swelling and resting can help in management.

The effects of preeclampsia are experienced by the pregnant woman, the fetus, and the newborn. The pregnant woman could suffer severe morbidity and mortality due to placental abruption, pulmonary edema, renal failure, and damage to other organs. On the other hand, newborns are at risk of neonatal death, seizures, neonatal encephalopathy, and neonatal intensive care admission. Additionally, for the fetus, the restriction of nutrients and oxygen results in growth restriction, low birth weight, and ultimately pre-term birth.

With all these factors and detrimental effects at play, women need to be fully aware of their health. Though preeclampsia may be critical, any affected woman should walk through the process with their doctors. Awareness and early detection are primary to ending this silent killer ravaging the pregnant woman around us.


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