Q: Please Doc, what can be the cause of preeclampsia in pregnancy and how can one stop or avoid it for subsequent pregnancies?
A: Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy which is characterized by high blood pressure reading and signs of organ damage. A bit of background first….
Blood pressure readings are interpreted as same, pregnancy or no pregnancy. Any level more than 140/90mmHg is seen as hypertensive. A woman may already be hypertensive before pregnancy and on medication. She may be found to be hypertensive before the 20th week of pregnancy in which case it is believed she had previously undetected high blood pressure or she may be discovered to have high blood pressure after the 20th week, in which case it is believed that this high blood pressure is pregnancy-induced (Pregnancy Induced Hypertension: PIH). This would usually resolve within 6 weeks of having a baby. If a woman with PIH goes on to develop protein in urine, she is at risk of preeclampsia (in which protein leaks from kidneys into urine) or eclampsia (in which the woman experiences fits and seizures)
The risk of preeclampsia is higher in women who have had this condition in a previous pregnancy, first pregnancies, women who get pregnant after the age of 40 years, women who are obese and women with multiple pregnancies or those who have a long interval between babies (greater than 10 years) or short interval between babies (less than 2 years) etc
High blood pressure in pregnancy needs to be addressed as this poses a danger to both mother and baby. It may affect the flow of blood and nutrients to baby leading to slow growth or pre-term delivery. It may also lead to eclampsia or separation of placenta from the uterine wall before the baby is born.
Your doctor will determine the best course of action and may prescribe medications (to reduce blood pressure, or to even prepare your baby’s lungs for life outside the womb given the anticipation of preterm delivery), hospitalization to monitor you or delivery of the baby if the doctor believes the womb is now a hostile environment for the baby due to any of the dangers mentioned above.
There are varying thoughts about strategies thought to help prevent this condition. However, ensuring that risk factors are reduced by reducing weight, eating and living healthy may be helpful strategies.
For more on blood pressure, please click on the links below:
Be sure to make your antenatal classes interactive. Ask your doctor questions about your health and indeed your blood pressure readings if they are cause for concern.
Have a great evening, y’all 😀