Pre-eclampsia is unique to pregnancy—but only affects 6% of expectant mothers in the UK. Despite the low statistical risk, it’s never a bad thing to educate yourself. These are the symptoms to look out for—and what you can do about it.
Pre-eclampsia typically presents after 20 weeks’ gestation, and is picked up by your midwife or obgyn via raised blood pressure readings, and protein presenting in your urine test.
The causes behind the condition are unclear; but experts believe genetics, as well as incomplete blood vessel development in the placenta, might be key factors.
In short, you can’t prevent pre-eclampsia—but you can be aware of the signs, so that early treatment can protect both you and baby. Overt indicators don’t usually accompany a mild occurrence of the condition, but if it doesn’t get picked up during routine antenatal checks, it could develop in severity, along with the following symptoms:
- Severe headache that isn’t relieved by simple painkillers
- Blurred vision or flashing in front of eyes
- Severe pain underneath ribs
- Nausea or vomiting
- Heartburn that isn’t relieved by antacids
- Sudden swelling of the face, hands or feet
- Feeling very unwell
In the majority of cases, pre-eclampsia will not have any adverse effects on mother or child. But an untreated case could be life-threatening, with risks of organ damage, blood clotting, convulsions, and death.
Your health professionals will explain that pre-eclampsia can only be eradicated by delivery of your baby and placenta. If you are not yet at least 34 weeks, the condition will be managed via possible blood pressure medication, as well as regular growth checks, until you are far along enough to deliver safely. It is common for women suffering from pre-eclampsia to be induced, as it is not recommended to go past due date—37 weeks is the general threshold.
For pre-eclampsia that has progressed into a severe form, you’ll likely be admitted to hospital, where you can receive the proper treatment on-call, and have professionals on-hand if baby needs to be delivered sooner.