Preeclampsia is a condition during pregnancy, which occurs due to very high blood pressure. It often sets in gradually though in some women it has an abrupt onset especially after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The changes and symptoms may differ from woman to woman depending on the severity of the symptoms as well as the various organ systems that have been affected. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia.
Signs of Preeclampsia
High Blood Pressure
A notably high blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher, recorded on two separate occasions, not more than 7 days apart. In many women, the blood pressure can be marginally high or dangerously high.
Excess Protein in the Urine
One of the foremost and most typical signs of preeclampsia is the presence of protein in the urine. This occurs because the kidneys are not able to filter the blood efficiently and this leads to dangerously high levels of protein in the urine of the woman. This is a sure shot sign that preeclampsia has set in. Not only is the concentration of protein in the urine high but also the urine is very less.
Rapid Weight Gain
The women start to gain unnatural and rapid weight. Gaining half a pound every week is said to be normal in a pregnancy but gaining excess of 2 pounds every week is a definite cause of concern and must be looked into as it can indicate preeclampsia. Moreover, the weight gain is unexplained, as the woman cannot attribute it to faulty eating habits.
Nervous System Changes
Certain changes in the nervous system can also be seen. These include blurred vision, seeing spots, severe headaches, convulsions or going into a coma. These symptoms occur in very acute cases, when the preeclampsia has not been investigated or has remained unresolved.
Excess Water Retention
One of the most prominent features of high blood pressure and preeclampsia is excess water retention. This can take the form of swelling on the hands and the face. The swelling can also be found on the feet and some women report a feeling of heaviness in their feet and difficulties in walking. Oedema is commonly seen in almost all pregnant blood pressure patients.
Changes in the Liver
There is a marked difference in the way the liver functions and behaves epically if a woman is suffering from preeclampsia. The changes are manifested in the form of pain on the lower right abdomen and this often gets confused as gall bladder problems or mild cases of indigestion.
The blood platelets too start getting affected and this impacts the ability of the blood to clot. This can be seen in the form of excessive bruising on certain parts of the body.
Intra Uterine Growth Retardation or IUGR
The blood pressure or the flow of the blood affects the way the nutrients are transported to the baby via the blood and the placenta. The baby may be starved of nutrients and may not receive nutrients properly.
This in turn can lead to a small baby or a baby whose growth has been severely restricted. The baby may also appear to be sluggish and mothers may not detect the presence of foetal movements in the womb. This is a cause of concern and needs to be reported to the doctor immediately.
Changes in Vision
A person may begin to feel a perceptible difference in his/her vision. The vision can appear to be blurred and hazy. Clouding of vision may also be experienced. Women are known to experience extreme sensitivity to light in some cases of preeclampsia. Loss of vision is rare but is nevertheless reported in some cases.
As seen in most cases of high blood pressure, dizziness can also be experienced during preeclampsia. This occurs because there is an obstruction in the blood flow to the brain. The blood rushes too fast and this can cause a wave of dizziness along with fainting spells.
Nausea and Vomiting
In most case of preeclampsia, the baby is often delivered prematurely by labour induction due to the imminent danger to its life. This is because high blood pressure and preeclampsia can lead to placental abruption, poor growth and birth defects in the baby. Most doctors try to wait until the 37th week of pregnancy but in several cases, babies are known to be delivered as early as the 25th week.
Preeclampsia can often lead to a more serious condition called as eclampsia in which the woman develops blurring of vision, mental confusion, sense of impending doom, extreme anxiety, a pounding headache, convulsions, seizures or even go into coma. A good doctor will always remain alert for symptoms of preeclampsia and prevent it from developing into eclampsia.
It is not uncommon for women to experience pounding headaches throughout the period of their pregnancy. These occur as a result of the high blood pressure. What is pertinent to note is that a lot of women typically experience headaches during their pregnancy and often these vital early signs of preeclampsia may go unnoticed. Hence, it is very important for the woman to stay alert and be on the positive lookout for these signs.
Swelling on the Face
Another feature of preeclampsia is acute swelling on the face. The face and the eyes begin to look radically puffy and swollen. The features on the face begin to look grotesque with all the water retention-taking place. This is one of the most telltale signs of preeclampsia.
Blood pressure during pregnancy should never been taken lightly as it can cause fatalities in both the mother and the child especially since it is a silent killer and remains undetected. It is therefore very important for all women to get regular prenatal checkups done and have their blood pressure monitored at least once every week especially if they are suffering from moderate to high blood pressure.
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