Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy and characterized by high blood pressure (over 140/90 mmHg ) in a woman whose blood pressure had been normal and proteins in the urine. There can also be an edema, although it is not necessary to arrive at a diagnosis.
Many times, a woman with preeclampsia does not feel unwell. The most evident symptoms of preeclampsia are:
- Swelling of the hands and face or eyes (edema)
- Sudden weight gain over 1 to 2 days or more than 2 pounds a week
Note: Some swelling of the feet and ankles is considered normal during pregnancy.
Symptoms of severe preeclampsia include:
- Headache that does not go away
- Trouble breathing
- Belly pain on the right side, below the ribs. Pain may also be felt in the right shoulder, and can be confused with heartburn, gallbladder pain, a stomach virus, or kicking by the baby
- Decreased urine output, not urinating very often
- Nausea and vomiting (a worrisome sign towards the end of the pregnancy)
- Vision changes, including temporary blindness, seeing flashing lights or spots, sensitivity to light, and blurry vision
- Auditory changes (hearing noises) tinnitus
- Vertiginous (dizzy)syndrome, somnolence, irritability, excitability and disorientation among others.
There is no known way to prevent preeclampsia. Women who have suffered preeclampsia in pregnancy have greater possibilities of having it again. Preventative measures include:
- It is important for all pregnant women to start prenatal care early and continue it through the pregnancy. In each visit, the doctor should measure blood pressure, check weight gain and request the necessary tests
- If calcium intake is insufficient, a calcium supplement may be prescribed, especially for those at risk
- Aspirin in low doses can prevent preeclampsia in those women predisposed to having it
- Magnesium sulphate may be prescribed for those women with severe preeclampsia to prevent it from developing into eclampsia.
Gene or region studied