Preeclampsia is a specific type of hypertension or high blood pressure, that’s specifically seen in pregnant women. In most cases, a woman with no previous history of high blood pressure may develop the condition, which usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The condition is treatable, but may often accompany organ damage, especially in the kidneys or liver. And left untreated, preeclampsia can put both mom and baby at risk of death or other complications.
Risk factors for preeclampsia
While most pregnant women don’t face a risk of developing preeclampsia, patient history can often increase a woman’s chances. For example, women who suffered from preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy are at a higher risk in later pregnancies as are individuals with a family history of preeclampsia. Other risk factors include carrying multiple babies, obesity, hypertension, being over age 35, African Americans, diabetes, kidney disease, or some autoimmune diseases can increase an individual’s risk. But there are preventative measures a woman can take.
1. Daily low-dose aspirin
Taking low-dose aspirin can lower a pregnant woman’s risk of developing preeclampsia. For best results, and under the guidance of a qualified physician, an at-risk patient should take aspirin daily with a dosage of no more than 81 milligrams beginning after 12 weeks of gestation.
2. Attend all prenatal checkups
During a routine pregnancy, a woman will see a physician or midwife regularly. Usually, the prenatal checkup schedule includes monthly visits during the first six months. In months 7 and 8, visits increase to bi-monthly. And in the final month, patients will see a health care provider every week. During visits, weight and blood pressure will be monitored, and if preeclampsia is discovered, pregnant women should expect to attend more prenatal appointments for additional care.
To date, there is no cure for preeclampsia other than delivery. And even after delivery, some women still develop postpartum preeclampsia. For patients where the condition is discovered too early for delivery, healthcare providers will monitor women closely to ensure the baby’s healthy development. For women that are close to full term, delivery may be induced.
Be proactive throughout pregnancy
Since preeclampsia can theoretically happen to any woman but may be more likely in individuals with increased risk factors, taking a proactive approach to gestational health is critical. Before pregnancy, lose weight if necessary, and focus on controlling blood pressure and blood sugar for individuals with either diabetes or hypertension. During pregnancy, only gain the recommended amount of weight. Pregnant women should attend all scheduled prenatal appointments and exercise regularly. Likewise, focus on following a healthy meal plan with low-sodium options and avoid consuming caffeine.