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Preeclampsia: What Triggers It and How Does It Affect an Unborn Baby?

April 1, 2020 Pegalis Law Group

About one out of every 20 pregnancies is affected by a medical condition known as preeclampsia. High blood pressure, rapid weight gain, and swelling in the face, hands, and feet are symptoms commonly associated with preeclampsia. However, since these symptoms are often present in pregnancies, it can be difficult determining when something is amiss. Preeclampsia usually begins after about 20 weeks of pregnancy, and in some rare cases, postpartum preeclampsia has occurred after delivery. Preeclampsia is caused by many factors, including abnormal developments in the blood vessels responsible for sending blood to the placenta. When the placenta receives a limited blood flow, it can’t do its job of nourishing the fetus adequately. If left undiagnosed or untreated, preeclampsia may lead to eclampsia in which the expectant mother may experience convulsions, coma, or fatal complications for both her and her unborn baby.

What Are Common Symptoms of Preeclampsia During Pregnancy?

Preeclampsia has varying symptoms, which makes it challenging to diagnose. Sometimes preeclampsia develops without any symptoms. However, one of the first signs of preeclampsia is often high blood pressure, which is anything over 140/90 reported during at least two doctors’ visits. Other symptoms of preeclampsia may include:

  • Upper abdominal pains, usually on the right side
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe headaches
  • Vision blurriness or light sensitivity
  • Less frequent urination
  • Excess protein in your urine
  • Fluid in your lungs
  • Decreases in platelet production
  • Impaired kidney or liver function

Who’s Most at Risk for Developing Preeclampsia During Pregnancy?

Many risk factors can increase a pregnant woman’s chances of developing preeclampsia, including:

  • Obesity
  • History of preeclampsia and other medical conditions, including chronic hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, lupus, or migraines
  • First pregnancy or a long interval since your last pregnancy
  • Age (the risk is higher for pregnant teenagers or pregnant women over the age of 35)
  • Multiple births (more common among women carrying twins or triplets)
  • New paternity (each new partner pregnancy increases your risk)

What Are Some of the Complications Caused by Preeclampsia?

The earlier preeclampsia occurs during pregnancy, the higher the risks for severe complications. Fetal growth restriction and placental abruption are two risks affecting the unborn baby. Fetal growth restriction often leads to low birth weights and preterm births, which may require a cesarean (C-section) delivery. Placental abruption happens when the placenta separates itself from the uterus before delivery, resulting in heavy bleeding, which may be life-threatening to the mother and baby. Other complications may include eclampsia seizures, an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and damage to other vital organs, including the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and eyes. Prenatal care and careful monitoring of your blood pressure during pregnancy can help you avoid complications caused by preeclampsia and other medical conditions. Always talk to your doctor!

Pegalis Law Group: Advocates for Patient Awareness in NY & Beyond

As dedicated patient advocates, we educate the public about the effects of various medical conditions, such as preeclampsia, to ensure patient awareness and promote safer medical practices and patient care improvements across the board. Please visit our website and follow us on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to receive more updates about how you can be proactive about your family’s healthcare.