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Preeclampsia:What You Need to Know

Preeclampsia, also known as toxemia, is a very serious condition during pregnancy. At each prenatal visit, your doctor or midwife will take your blood pressure and any high readings will lead to more testing. Preeclampsia is a condition in pregnant women resulting from high blood pressure, swelling in the hands and face and upon testing, protein in the urine. It is important to know the warning signs and catch it as early as possible for treatment as it can be dangerous for mom and the developing fetus.

There is no for sure way to determine if you will have preeclampsia during your pregnancy but there are indications that you may be at a higher risk. High risk factors include first time pregnancy, teenage pregnancy, your sisters or mother had preeclampsia, women carrying multiples, if you are over the age of 40 and if you had blood pressure or kidney disease before getting pregnant. Again, this does not mean that you will develop preeclampsia but that you have an increased risk.

This condition falls into two different categories, mild and severe. Mild preeclampsia simply means that your blood pressure is high, you have increased water retention causing more than normal swelling and protein has been found in your urine. Severe preeclampsia includes all the symptoms just listed as well as headaches, blurred vision, inability to tolerate bright light, fatigue, vomiting, urinating small amounts, pain in the upper right abdomen, shortness of breath and a tendency to bruise easily. If you are experiencing headaches, blurred vision, abdominal pain or frequent urination contact your doctor or midwife right away. Do not wait for your next check up.

Treatment depends on the severity and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Because preeclampsia can prevent the placenta from getting enough blood, your baby won’t be getting enough oxygen or food resulting in low birth weight. If you are far enough along, your doctor or midwife will most likely want to deliver the baby as soon as possible. However, if you are not far enough along, you may be prescribed medication to bring down and stabilize your blood pressure as well as advising lots of rest (laying on your left side to help increase the blood flow to the placenta), drinking more water, decreasing or eliminating salt in your diet and increasing the frequency of your prenatal visits.

Unfortunately there is no way to completely prevent preeclampsia but there are ways to help reduce your risk. When you are pregnant it is very important to have healthy habits any way so stay away from foods that are high in sodium, try to avoid fast food, drink lots of water, stay away from caffeine and alcohol, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly and don’t forget to put your feet up throughout the day. Swollen feet alone are no fun at all, especially if it’s not flip-flop weather outside. Take care of yourself and your growing baby.

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