Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that happens to women during pregnancy. It leads to stroke and makes it the leading cause of maternal and infant deaths. It affects 5-8% of pregnant women and normally occurs during the 20th week of gestation, but in some rare cases, it develops at the early stage of pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia still affects women even after pregnancy. Stroke could hit after 6 weeks of delivery.
Causes of Preeclampsia:
- High Blood Pressure
- Diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2)
- Kidney disease, tendency to develop a blood clot or lupus, and migraine even before pregnancy
- Age. Very young first-time mothers and those pregnant women already above 40 years old.
- Multiple pregnancies. Those pregnant with twins, triplets and other multiples
Symptoms of Pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia is characterized by gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, sudden weight gain, severe headache, swelling, vision problems and protein in the urine. Experts say that pre-eclampsia is an indication of the health problem of a woman before pregnancy.
One of my lady officemates told me that she begins experiencing high blood pressure starting at the age of 40. She’s single, watches her diet well and is on her ideal weight.
Her doctor ruled out all possible causes and concluded that the underlying reason for her high blood pressure was the condition of her mother during pregnancy. She told me that her mother had pre-eclampsia every time she gave birth to her daughters.
Also, another reason that had contributed to her high blood pressure is stress. She normally works overtime and her earliest bedtime is midnight. She’s an accountant. You may be aware of the volume of work in an Accounting Department.
Her doctor prescribed the required medication in order to keep her blood pressure at a normal level, taking into consideration her family history and the stress that she gets at work. She’s on maintenance for more than ten years now and she’s fine.
Who are at risk?
Just like any other illnesses, there are risk factors that contribute to the occurrence of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.
- Family History
Normally, pre-eclampsia occurs during the first pregnancy. However, it could still affect non-first- time mothers. Those who suffer from pre-eclampsia have a mother or sister who suffered the same condition also while they were pregnant. Aside from first-time mothers, those carrying multiple babies, pregnant women who are already 40 years old and above and those who got pregnant at a very young age – teenage mothers – are also likely to experience the condition.
- Health condition
The red flags, the conditions that should be watched, are similar with those non-pregnant women. Women, who have the following health condition before pregnancy, are at risk of suffering from pre-eclampsia when they become pregnant:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High blood sugar
The Dangers of Pre-eclampsia
Stroke had become the leading cause of death among pregnant women and infants. Statistics show maternal deaths of 76,000 and infant deaths of 500,000 each year.
Generally speaking, the chance of stroke happening to pregnant women suffering from pre-eclampsia occurs before child delivery which is at 10%, 40% happen during delivery and 50% happen after childbirth, normally within six weeks after giving birth.
People Prone to Pre-eclampsia
African American women are more prone to suffer and succumb to pre-eclampsia. They are four times higher to be at risk, than Caucasian women. For the period 1998 – 2006, report showed that 56% of African American women were affected by this illness.
Pregnancy is always a delicate condition because another life is being formed inside a mother’s womb. Hence, it is always best to report to the attending health physician or an Obstetrician/ Gynecologist whatever symptoms a pregnant woman notices that’s going on inside and outside her body. Regular and special check-ups should never be missed.
As usual, diet plays a vital role in combatting any disease. To avoid high blood pressure and reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, pregnant women should eat foods that are fiber-rich, which they could get from vegetables, and fruits and also avoid fried, fatty and salty foods.
Pre-eclampsia exist and could affect a pregnant woman, whatever her race is. To the women planning to have a child, it is best to examine first your health condition. Do not withhold any information that could help your attending physician diagnose your current health condition very well. With this, your doctor could act immediately on whatever impending threats there could be to your life and the life of the baby you would be carrying. Always remember that prevention is always better than cure.