Preeclampsia can be a scary diagnosis during pregnancy, especially because we don’t exactly what causes it and it affects roughly 5 in 100 women. “We do know that there are women who have a higher risk of developing it, and a key to preventing preeclampsia is knowing you’re at risk and taking steps beforehand to lower your chance of developing preeclampsia,” says Amy Schmidt, MD. “Women that are at higher risk include:
- Women with preexisting chronic hypertension
- Women with diabetes
- Women with lupus
- Women carrying multiples
The diagnosis of preeclampsia is made based on elevated blood pressures and protein in the urine (proteinuria),” says Dr. Schmidt. “Oftentimes, women do not have any symptoms, however, severe headaches, visual disturbances and pain in the right upper abdomen can occur.”
“The earlier preeclampsia presents in a pregnancy, the more likely it will be severe,” says Dr. Schmidt. “The effects of preeclampsia range from minimal symptoms with a need for closer surveillance, to premature birth (and the risks associated with that) to the mother suffering a stroke or seizures in severe cases. The most proactive step you can take when you’re ready to start growing your family is to meet with your Fox Valley Ob/Gyn, who will help you determine what conditions you may be at risk for. If preeclampsia is one of those conditions, you’ll likely be instructed on specific things you can do to lower your risk, such as:
- Shedding pounds if you’re overweight
- Get your diabetes or chronic hypertension under control by following your recommended diet, seeing your doctor regularly to make sure your levels check out, etc.
- Beginning a baby aspirin regimen, as it has been shown to decrease risk in some high risk populations. You should talk with your doctor before starting any medication though.
Most commonly preeclampsia presents later in pregnancy and is mild,” commented Dr. Schmidt, “And by six weeks post-partum it should completely resolve on its own. So while it can be quite a scary experience, I remind patients that the condition will go away – it’s not a chronic condition – and to just hang in there a little longer. The safety of mom and baby is my top priority, and I utilize every resource available to ensure the best outcome.”