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This article is not written by a medical professional and should not be used to diagnose or treat preeclampsia. It is the experience I had with preeclampsia and what I have learned about the condition. It is written to bring awareness of the condition and encourage moms who may want to learn about it or are dealing with it.
Preeclampsia is a term you may have heard before, or maybe not. Either way, if you are pregnant, it’s a good idea to know what preeclampsia is and what to do about it.
According the WebMD preeclampsia (formerly called toxemia) is a complication in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure. It usually presents in the second or third trimester and only goes away once baby is delivered, though it can take time for symptoms to go away after delivery. Most women who develop preeclampsia delivery healthy babies and go on to recover.
I ended up having preeclampsia with each of my four pregnancies. It really snuck up on me the first time! I was in my third trimester and everything had been going incredibly smoothly. All of the sudden my vision went blurry one afternoon. When it didn’t go away after an hour, we decided it was time to head to the hospital. Upon arriving, it was obvious my blood pressure was too high and determined that I had developed preeclampsia.
Needless to say, this was a scary experience. Not just because I was concerned for my own health, but even more so for my baby’s. And with each pregnancy I had, the same situation developed. In fact, I got preeclampsia earlier in each pregnancy. With medication and attention to my health, I’m so grateful that I never developed eclampsia.
Symptoms and Causes
According the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- high blood pressure
- excess protein in urine
- bad headache
- changes in vision (loss, blurred or sensitivity to light)
- pain in the upper right abdomen under the ribs
- nausea or vomiting
- shortness of breath
- swelling (of legs, feet and hands)
Of course there are many unusual things going on with our bodies during pregnancy. But paying attention to them and taking note of things that are recurring or seem off to you is a good idea. Heading to the hospital or giving your doctor’s office a call is always a good idea if you are concerned. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your baby’s wellbeing!
As for why a mama might find herself having preeclampsia, there are several factors to consider. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to fully understand why it occurs. However, it is stated that preeclampsia is one of the most common complications to occur in pregnancy. It affects about 1 in 20 women! (source) You can find varying statistics on exactly how many women develop preeclampsia, but the reality is that it is a condition to be aware of as you enter pregnancy.
A list of plausible causes of preeclampsia include (but are not limited to):
- not enough blood flow to the uterus due to a narrowing of the vessels
- damage to the blood vessels
- a problem with the immune system
- genetic factors
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Who is most likely to get preeclampsia?
There are certain risk factors that may increase a pregnant mother’s chances of developing the condition. Such risk factors may include (but are not limited to):
- first time pregnant mothers
- pregnancies closer than 2 years apart or longer than 10 years apart
- a family history of the condition
- women over 40 and teenagers
- pregnant with multiples
Treatment of Preeclampsia
If you end up with preeclampsia, take heart. As I mentioned, I had preeclampsia with all four pregnancies. It is totally possible to go through your pregnancy safely with a bit of extra monitoring. And apart from the medication your doctor will likely prescribe to help keep your blood pressure under control, there are things you can do to take care of yourself during a pregnancy with preeclampsia.
To help keep your blood pressure down, you’ll need to get some good rest. When I would have an appointment with my doctor, he would tell me that I shouldn’t be doing much more than I was doing in that moment: sitting down. Of course that became more and more difficult with each pregnancy as I had more little ones at home to take care of while pregnant. During my third pregnancy I was put on modified bedrest and tried to take it easy. I did a good enough job that I had to be induced at 42 weeks. During my fourth pregnancy I was put on full bedrest for my last 2 weeks and scheduled for a c-section 1.5 weeks before my due date. And I really only made it that long because my amazing mother in law flew in to take over for the last two weeks of my pregnancy.
Decrease the stress
Blood pressure rises in all of us when we are under stress. This is true for anyone whether they are pregnant or not. So, even though you’ll likely be using medication to keep your blood pressure low, try to lower your stress also. You can do this by:
- asking your partner to help with things you are normal responsible for
- meditating, praying, practicing deep breathing
- opt out of the drama-if you have someone that brings stress to your life, take a break from them
- decrease your workload if possible
- don’t take on anything that isn’t necessary
- try some prenatal yoga
Nonstress test (NST)
While this isn’t necessarily a treatment, your doctor will want to do a little extra monitoring of you and baby. This could like like heading to the hospital for an NST twice a month from the time of diagnosis up until the last month, in which case you may be going once a week. That was my doctor’s typical approach in my pregnancies. Your doctor will have an approach to monitoring you and baby that is safe and best for your particular situation.
This really is the only end to preeclampsia. And even after delivery, you may experience symptoms. I, for example, always had a big spike in blood pressure on the fifth day after baby was born. We didn’t expect this the first time and I landed back in the hospital with my newborn in tow. When it happened again after the birth of my second child, we realized this was something my body was going to do. So, we were ready for it the third and fourth time!
Alright, mama, I hope you can use this article to understand the basics of preeclampsia as well as get an idea of what to expect if you are dealing with it. Please be encouraged that you and baby will be safe and healthy. Stay in touch with your doctor and take extra good care of you and baby.
Before you go, if you want to ensure you have a more restful recovery after delivery, be sure to check out my eBook, Every Mom’s Guide To Nap Time – The Ultimate Handbook For Getting GREAT Naps Everyday. Learn how to help your baby sleep well from day ( and night) one with this practical and helpful guide.