Warning Signs of Preeclampsia
December 10, 2020
It's your third trimester. You're in the home stretch! As your baby gets bigger and puts pressure on your organs, you are probably going to the bathroom more often and may find breathing a bit more difficult. You also may notice some swelling of your ankles, fingers and face. This is all normal. However, if you notice any sudden or extreme swelling, or if you gain a lot of weight really quickly, call your doctor right away. This could be a sign of preeclampsia.
What is Preeclampsia and What are the Signs?
Preeclampsia, also called toxemia, is a disease of pregnancy that affects approximately 6-8 percent of women, usually during their first pregnancies. It can cause high blood pressure and problems with the kidneys and other organs. Often women don't feel sick or notice symptoms. Your healthcare provider will frequently check for signs of preeclampsia during prenatal visits. However, it’s important to be aware of early signs of this serious condition:
- High blood pressure
- Too much protein in the urine
- Swelling of hands and face (Some swelling is normal in pregnancy)
Later symptoms can include a persistent headache, changes in vision, and upper abdominal pain.
Can Preclampsia Be Prevented?
Unfortunately, preeclampsia can't be prevented. Early detection is the best way to prevent complications. The only cure is delivery, which may not be best for the baby. Healthcare providers normally induce labor if the preeclampsia is mild and the woman is near term (37 to 40 weeks of pregnancy). If it is too early to deliver, the doctor will watch the health of the baby and mother very closely. Mom may need medicines and bed rest at home or in the hospital to lower her blood pressure. Medicines also might be used to prevent the mother from having seizures.
Bottom line: Preeclampsia is a serious condition. Knowing the signs and addressing preeclampsia quickly if you are one of the small percentage of women who experience it, can help assure a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.
John J. Eichenlaub, MD, FACOG
John J. Eichenlaub, MD, FACOG, is an obstetrician/gynecologist with Doctors Eichenlaub and May. He is the Medical Director at Women & Babies Hospital and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Eichenlaub is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He served his residency at Baystate Medical Center.