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Preeclampsia and Eclampsia

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How Can Preeclampsia Affect My Baby and Me?

Preeclampsia can prevent the placenta from receiving enough blood, which can cause your baby to be born very small. It is also one of the leading causes of premature births, and the complications that can follow, including learning disabilities, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, hearing and vision problems.

In moms-to-be, preeclampsia can cause rare but serious complications that include:

  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Water in the lungs
  • Heart failure
  • Reversible blindness
  • Bleeding from the liver
  • Bleeding after you've given birth

Preeclampsia can also cause the placenta to suddenly separate from the uterus, which is called placental abruption. This can cause stillbirth.

What Is the Treatment for Preeclampsia and Eclampsia?

The only cure for preeclampsia and eclampsia is to deliver your baby. Your doctor will talk with you about when to deliver based on how far along your baby is, how well your baby is doing in your womb, and the severity of your preeclampsia.

If your baby has developed enough, usually by 37 weeks or later, your doctor may want to induce labor or perform a cesarean section. This is will keep preeclampsia from getting worse.

If your baby is not close to term, you and your doctor may be able to treat preeclampsia until your baby has developed enough to be safely delivered. The closer the birth is to your due date, the better for your baby.

If you have mild preeclampsia, your doctor may prescribe:

  • Bed rest either at home or in the hospital; you'll be asked to rest mostly on your left side.
  • Careful observation with a fetal heart rate monitor and frequent ultrasounds
  • Medicines to lower your blood pressure
  • Blood and urine tests

Your doctor also may recommend that you stay in the hospital for closer monitoring. In the hospital you may be given:

  • Medicine to help prevent seizures, lower your blood pressure, and prevent other problems
  • Steroid injections to help your baby's lungs develop more quickly

Other treatments include:

  • Magnesium can be injected into the veins to prevent eclampsia-related seizures
  • Hydralazine or another antihypertensive drug to manage severe blood pressure elevations
  • Monitoring fluid intake

For severe preeclampsia, your doctor may need to deliver your baby right away, even if you're not close to term.

After delivery, signs and symptoms of preeclampsia should go away within 1 to 6 weeks.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Mikio A. Nihira, MD on August 19, 2012
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