How you can prevent high blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia) from posing a risk to your baby in Kingston, New York.
Preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year. Preeclampsia is responsible for 15% of premature births in the United States each year.
Preeclampsia is a common problem during pregnancy. Preeclampsia occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Affecting 5-8% of all pregnancies, preeclampsia is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine.
Preeclampsia is defined by high blood pressure (a blood pressure reading higher than 140/90) and excess protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The excess protein in the urine is related to problems with your kidneys. Often, preeclampsia causes only modest increases in blood pressure. However, left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious complications. The more severe your preeclampsia and the earlier it occurs in your pregnancy, the greater the risks to you and your baby.
Preeclampsia usually shows up unexpectedly during a routine prenatal blood pressure and urine test. That's why it is essential to seek regular prenatal care throughout your pregnancy. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia.
The complications of preeclampsia include: (1) lack of blood flow to the placenta. Preeclampsia affects the arteries carrying blood to the placenta. If the placenta does not get enough blood, the baby may receive less oxygen and nutrients. This can lead to slow growth, low birth weight, preterm birth or stillbirth. (2) Placental abruption. Preeclampsia increases the risk of placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery. Severe abruption can cause heavy bleeding, which can be life threatening for both mother and baby. (3) HELLP syndrome, which stands for hemolysis (the destruction of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count syndrome, can rapidly become life-threatening for both mother and baby. (4) Eclampsia. When preeclampsia is not controlled, eclampsia, which is essentially preeclampsia with seizures, can develop. Eclampsia can permanently damage a mother's vital organs, including the brain, liver and kidneys. Left untreated, eclampsia can cause coma, brain damage and death for both mother and baby.
The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery. You are at increased risk for seizures, placental abruption, and severe bleeding until your blood pressure decreases. If it is too early in your pregnancy, delivery may not be the best thing for your baby. Your doctor may recommend bedrest to lower your blood pressure and increase blood flow to your placenta, giving your baby extra time to mature. You may need to lie in bed, only sitting and standing when necessary. Your doctor may want to see you a few times a week to check your blood pressure, urine protein levels and your baby's well-being.
If you have severe preeclampsia, you may need bedrest in the hospital. In the hospital, you may have regular non-stress tests or biophysical profiles to monitor your baby's well-being. You may also have ultrasound exams to measure the volume of amniotic fluid. A lack of amniotic fluid is a sign of poor blood supply to your baby. Your doctor may recommend medications to lower your blood pressure until delivery.
If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia near the end of your pregnancy, you may be treated by inducing labor right away. The readiness of your cervix--whether it is beginning to open (dilate), thin (efface) or soften (ripen) may also be a factor in determining whether or when labor will be induced.
If it is not possible to wait, your doctor may induce labor or schedule a cesarean section earlier in your pregnancy. After delivery, you can expect that your blood pressure will return to normal within a few days or weeks.
Prompt treatment of preeclampsia saves lives! Make sure that your blood pressure and urine tests are within normal limits during your pregnancy.