Preeclampsia, also known as ‘Toxemia’ is a condition during pregnancy where there is a sudden spike in the mother’s Blood Pressure. One of the most complicated conditions, ‘Preeclampsia’ is usually caused in the 3rd trimester affecting about 1-20 pregnancies. Even though the exact cause of Preeclampsia remains a mystery, it is believed that it is caused due to developmental issues of the placenta. 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 significant role in the condition.
According to Dr Manjiri Mehta, Consultant Gynaecologist, Obstetrician & Laparoscopic Surgeon, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi, early signs of Preeclampsia include a rise in Blood Pressure and Protein in Urine. Although 6-8% of all pregnant women experience high Blood Pressure during their term, the most critical symptom which confirms the condition is the presence of Protein in Urine. Other symptoms also include fluid retention, thus resulting in swelling in the hands, feet, ankles, and face.
Symptoms of Preeclampsia-
- Hazy vision
- Severe headaches
- Shortness of breath
- Pain just below the Ribs on the right side
- Sudden weight gain in the course of 1-2 days
- A decrease in urine output
As most of the symptoms are common with pregnancy, the patient usually remains unaware and will only find out 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 a coma; it can even cause death. However, the complications from Preeclampsia can be avoided if caught in time.
Treatment- Preeclampsia is not cured until the baby is born. However, if the condition is diagnosed early in the pregnancy, delivery might not be an option as the survival chances of the foetus might be minuscule at an early stage. 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 try and bring the Blood Pressure down, which in turn increases the flow of blood to the Placenta, benefitting the baby. Blood Pressure and urine tests need to 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 caesarean delivery. The symptoms of Preeclampsia should disappear within a few weeks of delivery. In case, Preeclampsia is not treated even after birth, usually known as Postpartum Preeclampsia, Blood Pressure medications that help reduce & prevent seizures are advised. The patient remains at high risk of complications if she remains untreated.