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What is Preclampsia, Know its Causes and Treatment

What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is quite a well-known complication of pregnancy. This condition is characterized by the female having high to very high blood pressure normally during pregnancy.  The blood pressure may become significantly high a few weeks before the due date prompting physicians to go for an early delivery. In addition to high blood pressure, the female will also have lower extremity edema along with proteins in the urine found on urinalysis.  What exactly causes Preeclampsia is still not known but is believed to start during the second to third trimester of pregnancy.  Some research also suggests a genetic link to the development of Preeclampsia.[1]

What is Preeclampsia?

At times, it may occur after the delivery of the child but such cases are extremely rare.  Studies suggest that around 15% of all pregnancy cases have Preeclampsia.  The severity of this condition ranges from mild to severe.  As of now, there is no known cure for Preeclampsia but treatments are available to control the symptoms and prevent any threat to the pregnancy.  Preeclampsia can be easily diagnosed during routine tests conducted while a female is pregnant.[1]

The elevation of blood pressure along with urinalysis confirming proteins in the urine definitively point to a diagnosis of Preeclampsia.  There are also certain risk factors that increase the chances of a female developing Preeclampsia.  These factors include multiple pregnancies, age of the female above 35 when getting pregnant, previous history of hypertension, and underlying medical conditions like diabetes and obesity.[1]

As of now, there is no definite way to prevent the onset of Preeclampsia but research is still ongoing. If this condition is not treated, then there is a high likelihood that the female will develop eclampsia which is a potentially life-threatening condition. This article explains some of the reasons given by experts as to the cause of Preeclampsia and different ways to manage the condition for a safe delivery.[1]

What Causes Preeclampsia?

As stated, research is still ongoing as to what exactly causes Preeclampsia.  However, many experts believe that placental development complications may be one of the reasons for this condition.  This is because the blood vessels that provide nutrition to the fetus are narrower than normal and respond abnormally to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.  This result in the blood flow to the fetus being restricted.[2]

The cause however for the blood vessels being narrower than normal is not known even though there are certain factors which may have a role to play including damage to the blood vessels, problems with the immune system of the mother, and in some cases genetic makeup.[2]

Treatment of Preeclampsia

Coming to the treatment of Preeclampsia, this condition cannot be cured until after the delivery of the baby.  As long as the blood pressure of the female is high there is always a risk for stroke, abnormal bleeding, seizures, and separation of the placenta from the uterus.  In cases where Preeclampsia starts early in the pregnancy then delivering the baby does not become an option.[2]

If a female has a history of Preeclampsia in prior pregnancies then she will have to attend prenatal counseling on a regular basis. In addition, the female will be given antihypertensives to lower the blood pressure.  As a preventive measure, the female will also be given anticonvulsants to prevent any episodes of seizures due to elevated blood pressures. To maintain normal functioning of the liver, the patient will also be given doses of corticosteroids.[2]

These medications not only prolong the pregnancy but also speed up the development of lungs in the baby which is helpful if the baby has to be delivered before term.  In case if there is only mild elevation of blood pressure the physician may just recommend the patient to get adequate rest to prevent any further complications.  Rest allows the blood pressure to remain under control and improves blood flow to the fetus.[2]

Complete bedrest is recommended is some cases of Preeclampsia and to only sit or stand when absolutely necessary or to go to the restroom.  The physical activity is severely restricted and patients have to get checked for their blood pressure and urinalysis on a regular basis.  In very rare cases where the blood pressure is significantly high then the pregnant female will have to be observed in hospital setting till the time of delivery.[2]

In cases where Preeclampsia is diagnosed close to the due date of the pregnancy then it is best to induce labor and get the baby delivered at the earliest possible time.  At this time, the patient will be administered magnesium sulfate to improve blood flow to the uterus and prevent any seizures during delivery. Once the baby is born, the blood pressure and other symptoms of Preeclampsia tend to return back to normal.[2]

In conclusion, Preeclampsia is a quite a common complication of pregnancy where the blood pressure of the mother elevates significantly.  The exact cause of this condition remains unknown but experts believe that Preeclampsia occurs when the blood vessels that supply nutrition to the placenta become narrow resulting in restricted blood flow.  Why this narrowing occurs is not known but genetic factors are believed to play a role.[2]

Preeclampsia cannot be cured while the female is still pregnant. If the condition is diagnosed very early in the pregnancy then bedrest with regular monitoring of the blood pressure and amount of proteins in the urine is recommended. In severe cases of Preeclampsia, this may have to be done in a hospital setting.[2]

If Preeclampsia is diagnosed close to the due date of the pregnancy then the only option left is to induce labor and get the baby delivered. The patient will be given medications to control blood pressure and prevent any chances of seizures during delivery. Once the baby is delivered safely, Preeclampsia fades way within a matter of a few weeks and the readings get back to normal.[2]


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 14, 2020

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