Preeclampsia and Eclampsia
What Is Preeclampsia?
Formerly called toxemia, preeclampsia is a condition that pregnant women develop. It is marked by high blood pressure in women who have previously not experienced high blood pressure before. Preeclamptic women will have a high level of protein in their urine and often also have swelling in the feet, legs, and hands. This condition usually appears late in pregnancy, generally after the 20 week mark, although it can occur earlier.
If undiagnosed, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, a serious condition that can put you and your baby at risk, and in rare cases, cause death. Women with preeclampsia who have seizures are considered to have eclampsia.
There's no way to cure preeclampsia, and that can be a scary prospect for moms-to-be. But you can help protect yourself by learning the symptoms of preeclampsia and by seeing your doctor for regular prenatal care. When preeclampsia is caught early, it's easier to manage.
What Causes Preeclampsia?
The exact causes of preeclampsia and eclampsia -- a result of a placenta that doesn't function properly -- are not known, although some researchers suspect poor nutrition or high body fat are possible causes. Insufficient blood flow to the uterus could be associated. Genetics plays a role, as well.
Who Is at Risk for Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is most often seen in first-time pregnancies, in pregnant teens, and in women over 40. While it is defined as occurring in women have never had high blood pressure before, other risk factors include:
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia?
In addition to swelling, protein in the urine, and high blood pressure, preeclampsia symptoms can include:
You should seek care right away if you have:
You can also have preeclampsia and not have any symptoms. That's why it's so important to see your doctor for regular blood pressure checks and urine tests.