Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition pregnant women can develop usually after 20 weeks. In very rare cases, it might occur even before the completion of 20 weeks. It is mainly characterized by higher blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. If undiagnosed, preeclampsia may lead to a severe condition called eclampsia, which puts both the mother and the baby at risk. In rare cases, it can also cause death.
The scary prospect of this condition is that there is no cure for preeclampsia, and pregnant women have to keep themselves aware of the signs and symptoms to avoid any complications
Signs And Symptoms Of Preeclampsia
1. High Blood Pressure
A blood pressure greater than 140/90 (systolic/diastolic) could be a sign that preeclampsia may be developing. The blood pressure should be measured twice with a gap of 6 hours in between, and both the readings should show the numbers equal to or greater than 140/90.
Not all pregnant women who have high blood pressure could possibly have preeclampsia. It might indicate other health conditions like gestational or chronic hypertension. But, during pregnancy, an increase in the systolic blood pressure by 30 mm/Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 15 mm/Hg is a matter of concern. It should be brought to the attention of your doctor immediately.
2. Presence Of Protein In The Urine
Called as proteinuria, the presence of protein in the urine is yet another significant symptom of preeclampsia. Proteins in the blood are filtered by the kidneys and reabsorbed by the blood after purification. Approximately less than 1% of the body’s proteins are found in the urine, which is normal. When the levels are more than that it could be an alarming sign of preeclampsia. Your blood pressure could still be less than 140/90.
3. Severe Headaches And Changes In Vision
A throbbing headache which doesn’t subside even after taking over-the-counter medicine is a peculiar sign of preeclampsia. The headaches could be migraine-like, accompanied by changes in the vision. Flashing lights, aura, sensitivity to light, blurring, and spots are some of the symptoms. It could be an indication of irritation in the central nervous system caused due to preeclampsia.
Also called as edema, some amount of swelling in the feet and ankle is common during pregnancy. This is due to the excess fluids building up in the body. But, a sudden swelling of your feet and hands accompanied by puffiness in your face, especially around the eyes, is a symptom of preeclampsia.
5. Sudden Weight Gain
A woman with normal BMI before pregnancy can gain around 25–30 pounds of weight during pregnancy. After the first trimester, an increase in weight by 1 pound every week is considered normal. But, if the weight gain is more than 2 pounds within a week’s time, it could be a sign that you are developing preeclampsia. This is because, the damaged blood vessels lead to fluid leakage and retention within the body, which otheriwse should be excreted.
6. Nausea And Vomiting
Morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy is common and considered healthy. It only lasts during the first trimester and subsides after. However, a sudden come-back of nausea and vomiting during mid-pregnancy is an indication of preeclampsia.
7. Abdominal And Shoulder Pain
A pain in the right upper part of your abdomen, just below the ribs is often mistaken to be due to gas, constipation, kicking of the baby, or indigestion. This, however, is caused by preeclampsia. A severe stinging shoulder pain and a pain around the neck which makes it hard for you to sleep on your right side is another alarming sign.
8. Change In Reflexes
There might be an increase in the reflexes to stimulations caused by hyperactivity of involuntary muscles. Sudden twitching of your hands and legs could indicate an impending seizure (characteristic of eclampsia) which needs to be taken care of immediately.
9. Low Urine Output
The number of times one urinates during pregnancy differs from one woman to another. However, in any woman, there is a significant increase in the number of times she visits the loo throughout the day, as well as the night. But, a marked reduction in the frequency of urination could indicate preeclampsia.
10. Shortness Of Breath And Anxiety
Shortness of breath and anxiety are some of the symptoms of high blood pressure. Apart from these, mental confusion, a racing pulse, and dizziness are the signs of preeclampsia. It is mainly caused due to the fluid build-up in the lungs.
If you see 2 or more of the above symptoms, see your doctor right away. Preeclampsia affects around 8–10% of pregnant women and is a dangerous condition. In rarest cases, the condition might not show any symptoms, which multiplies the risk. Therefore, a regular pre-natal checkup is of prime importance.