Chronic high blood pressure before pregnancy is one of the best predictors of preeclampsia. Women who had high blood pressure or preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy are also thought to be at higher risk of developing this condition again. These patients should prioritize talking to a healthcare provider before becoming pregnant. Reviewing ways to maintain a healthy weight and checking which hypertension medications can be used in pregnancy are good ways to minimize future risks.
Take a family history
People with a family history of preeclampsia are also more likely to develop this condition. If an immediate relative has experienced this complication, closer management may be warranted during pregnancy. There are numerous racial and ethnic disparities in HDP prevalence. Studies have shown African American women are thought to have higher odds of entering pregnancy with chronic hypertension and developing severe preeclampsia.
Personal health as a predictor
People who are obese, defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, may be more likely to develop preeclampsia. Having certain health conditions, such as lupus, migraine, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or thrombophilia, can also be a risk factor. Preeclampsia is thought to occur more frequently in those over 40, so getting pregnant later in life may also increase the risk.
Using fertility treatment to get pregnant is another possible risk factor for preeclampsia. Researchers have hypothesized that this outcome is due to a lack of corpus luteum development during in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles. The corpus luteum is responsible for producing hormones that help maintain a pregnancy. During IVF, programmed cycles suppress certain reproductive hormones, so the corpus luteum never develops. Pregnancies without a corpus luteum lack essential hormones, such as relaxin, which can cause blood vessels to remain stiff, theoretically leading to preeclampsia.
Being pregnant with multiple babies is another risk factor for preeclampsia. This is thought to be due to various factors including greater placental mass, older maternal age, and higher BMI. Anyone pregnant with twins, triplets, or more should attend all prenatal visits and monitor blood pressure throughout pregnancy.
Although preeclampsia can happen to anyone, individuals can reduce the chance of developing this serious complication by learning about the risk factors. Once pregnant, monitor for symptoms including headache, vision changes, pain in the upper stomach, nausea, swelling, sudden weight gain, and trouble breathing. If any of these occur, check in with a healthcare provider immediately as prompt treatment may be necessary. In the absence of symptoms, keep up with routine prenatal visits and blood pressure monitoring to stay as healthy as possible during pregnancy. Preeclampsia is serious, but early detection can make a difference.