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Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia in Pregnancy

Overview and health statistics of preeclampsia

The pregnant woman with preexisting cardiac disease is considered high-risk. Despite improvements in early identification and management of cardiac problems, these disorders contribute to complications in approximately 1% of pregnancies. The type and extent of woman’s cardiac disease determines whether she can successfully complete a pregnancy. Guidelines developed by the New York Heart Association (NYHA) are commonly used to predict a pregnancy’s outcome. These guidelines categorize pregnancy based on the degree of compromise including the preeclampsia in pregnancy.

What is preeclampsia in pregnancy?

Preeclampsia is the medical term used to describe gestational hypertension. It is a life-threatening disorder that usually develops after 20th weeks of gestation. It is very common to nulliparous patients. There are two categories for gestational hypertension. Preeclampsia is the non-convulsive form of disorder. It usually develops in about 7% of pregnancies and may be mild or severe. It is marked by the onset of hypertension about 20 weeks of gestation. The incidence is significantly higher low income groups.

The risk factors for preeclampsia

The exact causes of preeclampsia are undetermined. However, there are several factors that can contribute to the development of preeclampsia symptoms. This includes the ethnicity, racial, hereditary, and environmental factors that can come up with the occurrence of the condition. The lifestyle of the pregnant mother is another key determinant for this condition. In some cases, expectant mothers who have eating pattern such as high-fat, high-sugar, and high-sodium diet can lead to gestational hypertension. Sedentary living and inability to perform regular exercises can also predispose the pregnant mother to manifest the preeclampsia symptoms.

Preeclampsia causes and effect to pregnancy

The effect of gestational hypertension can lead to more serious condition. As for the fetal development, the baby’s growth will be influenced by the current condition of the mother. The most severe effect of gestational hypertension to the unborn baby is fetal death in utero (FDU). The maternal mortality for gestational hypertension is 10 to 15%, usually it results into more morbid condition known as eclampsia. Severe complications include cerebral edema (inflammation of the brain tissue leading to brain damage), stroke (cerebro-vascular accident), placental abruption, and disseminated intravascular coagulation.

The clinical manifestations of preeclampsia

The signs of preeclampsia includes blood pressure over 140/90 mmHg or an increase of 30 mmHg systolic and 15 mmHg diastolic over baseline obtained on two occasions at least 4 to 6 hours apart. There is also an increase generalized edema which is associated with a sudden weight gain of more than 5 lbs (2.3 kgs) per week. The pregnant woman who manifests the signs of preeclampsia usually appears between 21st week and 24th week of gestation and disappears within 42 days after the delivery. The final diagnosis of this condition is usually deferred until the blood pressure returns to normal after the delivery. If blood pressure remains elevated or high, chronic hypertension, either alone or superimposed on gestational hypertension, may be the cause.

Additional signs of preeclampsia include increased level of blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and uric acid. The frontal headaches, complaints of blurred vision, hyperreflexia, feeling nauseated and episodes of vomiting, irritability, cerebral disturbances and verbalization of Epigastric pain are considered as significant symptoms of preeclampsia.

Management and preeclampsia treatment

Pregnant women who are diagnosed to have gestational hypertension must receive sufficient information about what is preeclampsia. The importance of health teaching is part of the treatment and management modalities for this condition. High-protein diet and adequate fluid intake with restrictions to excessive salty foods is recommended. The pregnant mother who suffers from this condition is required to rest and sleep on lateral position. This is to promote blood circulation and prevents the compression of the heart.

A close observance of the blood pressure, fetal heart rate, edema, proteinuria (presence of protein in the urine), and signs of pending eclampsia is needed. The administration of antihypertensive drugs such as methyldopa and apresazide are prescribed to pregnant mothers with gestational hypertension. The importance of family involvement is very crucial for the intervention of gestational hypertension. As a matter of fact, the family must be aware of what is preeclampsia because there are several managements such as constant monitoring of blood pressure, regular intake of medicine, and other associative management needs the support and cooperation of the family.

Pregnant mothers who lack information about what is preeclampsia are most likely to suffer from this condition. The main reason why they are predisposed to this condition is the inability to identify the risk factors that can contribute to the development of gestational hypertension. Additionally, they need to understand the different manifestations of this condition in order for them to distinguish the normal and abnormal body changes during pregnancy. This will give them an idea about the common indications of gestational hypertension and receive appropriate management in order for them to prevent further complications.