Preeclampsia - What Happens
Preeclampsia can be mild or
severe. It may get worse gradually or rapidly. It affects your blood
kidneys, and brain.
It's very important to get treatment, because both you and your baby could suffer life-threatening problems involving your:
- Blood pressure. The blood vessels increase their resistance
against blood flow, increasing blood pressure. Very high blood pressure keeps your baby from getting enough blood and oxygen. Also, blood
volume doesn't increase as much as it should during pregnancy. This can affect
the baby's growth and well-being.
- Placenta. The blood vessels of the placenta don't grow deep
into the uterus as they should. And they don't widen as they normally would. This
makes them unable to provide normal blood flow to the baby.
- Liver. Poor blood flow to the mother's liver can cause liver
damage. Liver impairment is related to the life-threatening
HELLP syndrome, which requires emergency medical treatment.
- Kidneys. When affected by
preeclampsia, the kidneys can't work as well as they should to remove waste and extra water.
- Brain. Vision impairment,
persistent headaches, and seizures (eclampsia) can develop. Eclampsia can lead to maternal coma and fetal and maternal death. This is why
women with preeclampsia are often given medicine to prevent
- Blood. Low
platelet levels in the blood are common with
preeclampsia. In rare cases, a potentially life-threatening blood-clotting and
bleeding problem develops along with severe preeclampsia.1 This condition is called disseminated intravascular
coagulation (DIC). After delivery, DIC goes away. In the meantime, you may be
given a medicine (clotting factor), blood transfusion, or platelet transfusion.
Delivery of the baby and placenta is the only "cure"
for preeclampsia. If your condition becomes dangerous enough that delivery is
necessary but you don't go into labor, your doctor will induce labor or
deliver the baby with surgery (cesarean section).
Unless you have
chronic high blood pressure, your blood pressure should return to normal in a
few days or weeks. In severe cases, this can take 6 or more weeks.
The earlier in the pregnancy that
preeclampsia begins and the more severe it becomes, the greater
the risk of preterm birth, which can cause problems for the newborn.
An infant born before
37 weeks may have difficulty breathing because of immature lungs (respiratory distress syndrome).
A newborn affected by
preeclampsia may also be smaller than normal.
This is because of inadequate nutrition from poor blood flow through the