Preeclampsia also known as ‘Toxemia’ is a condition during pregnancy where there is a sudden spike in the mother’s blood pressure. It is one of the most complicated conditions during pregnancy, which usually occurs in the third trimester of the pregnancy. Even though the exact cause of Preeclampsia remains a mystery, it is believed that it is caused due to improper developmental of the placenta. The placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy in the uterus of the mother. It helps in providing oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby and removes waste products from the baby's blood. The dysfunction of the placenta is suspected to be caused by poor nutrition or high body fat, insufficient blood flow to the uterus and genetics which is known to play a major role in the condition.
Early signs of Preeclampsia include rise in blood pressure and protein in the urine. Although 6-8% of all pregnant women experience high blood pressure during pregnancy, the most important symptom which confirms the condition is the presence of protein in the urine. Other symptoms also include fluid retention, thus resulting in swelling in the hands, feet, ankles, and face. As the pregnancy progresses the condition aggravates and the following symptoms may develop:
As most of the symptoms are common during pregnancy, the patient usually remains unaware of the condition. The pregnant women can only know about the condition when the doctor conducts a thorough check-up. If Preeclampsia remains untreated, it progresses to Eclampsia, which is life-threatening to the mother. In this condition, the mother can experience seizures, slip into coma or can even cause death. However, the complications from Preeclampsia can be avoided if caught in time.
Preeclampsia cannot be cured until the baby is born. However, if the condition is diagnosed at an early stage of pregnancy, the survival chances of the foetus become higher. In such cases, if the mother is far from her due date and her symptoms are mild, the doctor may advise her to strictly limit physical activity to lower the blood pressure, which in turn increases the flow of blood to the Placenta, benefitting the baby. Blood pressure and urine tests should be carried out regularly, and the foetus also needs to be monitored closely.
If the condition is detected close to the last trimester, delivery is advised at the earliest, either through induced labour or a caesarean delivery. The symptoms of Preeclampsia should disappear within a few weeks of delivery. In case, Preeclampsia is not treated even after delivery, usually known as Postpartum Preeclampsia, blood pressure medications that help prevent seizures are advised. The patient remains at a high risk of complications if she remains untreated.
Inputs by Dr. Manjiri Mehta, Consultant Gynaecologist, Obstetrician & Laparoscopic Surgeon, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital.
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