Pre eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is one of the most common complications of pregnancy.  Occurring in 5-10 % of pregnancies, it is most common in women in their first pregnancy or in women with previous problems with their blood pressure or kidneys.

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Pre-eclampsia is diagnosed by a rise in blood pressure, the presence of protein in the urine and often significant swelling of the feet, fingers and face. This is why your midwife will check your blood pressure and urine so frequently.  Sometimes the condition has no symptoms and is only picked up on routine checks.  It is important that the condition is diagnosed because it can cause chemical changes in the mother’s blood and can even effect kidney liver and clotting systems.  It most commonly occurs at end of pregnancy but can also happen after 28 weeks in which case it can affect the growth of baby.  If undiagnosed and untreated it can become a serious condition for both the mother and the baby, leading to convulsions, bleeding and even death of baby.

Treatment is most commonly given as an out-patient, involving tablets to control your blood pressure and extra monitoring of the baby’s growth.

If your blood pressure cannot be controlled then sometimes you will need to be given treatment in hospital and occasionally the baby will have to be delivered early.

Fortunately, pre-eclampsia tends not to be recurrent in most cases.  1 in 10 women will suffer from it in subsequent pregnancies.

Symptoms include;

A Frontal Headache

Visual disturbance

Pain in the stomach high up or under ribs on the right hand side.

Swelling of the face, hands and feet particularly, also known as Oedema.

However, 50% of women get some kind of swelling or bloating towards the end of their pregnancy, so this is not a reliable symptom to rely on.

If you are in any doubt as to whether you might have pre-eclampsia you should contact your caregiver for more advice.