Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs only during pregnancy in which woman develops high blood pressure and protein in the urine. She may have swelling (oedema) of the legs, hands, face or entire body. There can be dangerous complications for the mother and the foetus.
The cause of preeclampsia remains unknown. Preeclampsia occurs when the placenta does not anchor itself as deeply as expected within the wall of the uterus. This happens if the placenta does not form a normal system of arteries. Many things can lead to an incomplete artery system in the placenta, including illnesses that can interfere with normal circulation (diabetes or high blood pressure), genetic (inherited) factors and the way the mother's immune system reacts to the growing placenta.
The only cure for preeclampsia and eclampsia is to deliver the baby. If your symptoms are mild, your doctor or midwife may try to delay delivery to make sure the baby has developed enough to do well outside the womb.
The goal of treating mild preeclampsia is to delay delivery until the foetus is mature enough to live outside the womb. You will be asked to rest and your will monitor your blood pressure, weight, urine protein, liver enzymes, kidney function and the clotting factors in your blood.
Women with severe preeclampsia are hospitalized and usually are treated with magnesium sulfate, a medication to lower the risk of seizures. Magnesium sulfate is usually given intravenously (into a vein) or by injection into a muscle. Medications to lower blood pressure may be needed before delivery.
Seizures generally are treated with intravenous magnesium sulfate. Other antiseizure medications such as lorazepam (Ativan) or phenytoin (Dilantin) may be used, but they don't work as well to control eclampsia. Once seizures are controlled and the mother's blood pressure is stabilized, the baby is delivered.
The outlook for full recovery from preeclampsia is very good. Most women begin to improve within one to two days after delivery, and blood pressure returns to the normal pre-pregnancy range within the next 6 to 12 weeks. Prenatal care can dramatically reduce the complications and deaths of preeclampsia, because women who are diagnosed while preeclampsia is mild can receive treatment without any delay.
Read more articles on Preeclampsia and Eclampsia.