Marco Santi Amantini/fotolia
In the olden days (back when I was having kids) preeclampsia went by a different name. It was called toxemia. By either name, this can be a very serious development in a woman's pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is a condition that can hit during pregnancy which hikes blood pressure and may affect the kidneys or other organ systems. If not controlled, preeclampsia can turn into eclampsia where the symptoms become more severe and the woman can develop seizures.
A pregnancy may seem normal for the first 20 weeks, then preeclampsia may appear. It can emerge before 20 weeks but that's not the usual scenario.
Women at greatest risk for preeclampsia are those pregnant for the first time, or at the other end of the spectrum, women over 40 years of age.
Women with a history or family history of preeclampsia, or of previous high blood pressure, or carrying multiples may be at risk. A history of diabetes, kidney disease, lupus, obesity or rheumatoid arthritis may increase risk.
Usually high blood pressure develops suddenly, though it can be more gradual. A rise in blood pressure is often the first sign.
But wait, there are more possible symptoms:
- Kidney dysfunction like excess protein in the urine, called proteinuria
- Liver dysfunction
- Decrease in urine
- Decrease in platelets levels in your blood
- Nausea or vomiting
-Sudden weight gain and swelling
- Changes in vision
- Bad headaches
- Extreme pain in the upper abdomen, e.g., on the right side under the ribs
- Fluid in the lungs causing extreme shortness of breath
Untreated, preeclampsia as you may imagine can lead to eclampsia, which can include seizures. Without treatment, serious complications can affect both mother and child. In extreme cases, it can be fatal.
Go to an ER or contact your doctor immediately if you experience bad headaches, or severe pain in your upper abdomen, if your vision changes, or if you're short of breath. These may be indicators that you are developing eclampsia.
Get medical assistance if you have sudden weight gain over a day or two, if your urine output decreases, or if you have dramatic swelling in eyes, hands and feet.