World Preeclampsia Day 2019

World Preeclampsia Day 2019: Symptoms, who is at risk for preeclampsia? How to avoid pregnancy complications

New Delhi: It is said that about 80 per cent of the maternal deaths in India are linked to preventable causes, of which hypertensive disorders such as Post-partum haemorrhage (PPH), preeclampsia and sepsis are major contributors.

 Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-specific hypersensitive disorder and is responsible for the death of nearly 76,000 mothers and 500,000 infants throughout the world every year. World Preeclampsia Day, celebrated globally on May 22 every year, aims to raise awareness about preeclampsia. It also highlights the importance of early symptom recognition as this life-threatening pregnancy complication can occur rapidly without any warning signs.

Preeclampsia may progress into severe and sometimes fatal conditions such as eclampsia or HELLP syndrome. Eclampsia is preeclampsia with seizures or fits and accounts for 14 per cent of maternal deaths globally due to brain damage and other complications. The condition may lead to brain damage and even death of the patient in rare cases. HELLP (haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count) can occur in 4 – 12 per cent of women diagnosed with preeclampsia. If left untreated, the condition may lead to increased complications for the mother as well as the baby such as placental abruption, pulmonary edema, acute renal failure etc.

What are the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia generally occurs after 20 weeks of gestation. Some of the symptoms associated with the condition are:

  1.           High blood pressure
  2.           Protein in the urine
  3.           Severe headache
  4.           Pain in the chest
  5.           Swelling of the face and hands
  6.           Nausea after mid-pregnancy
  7.          Shortness of breath
  8.          Blurred vision
  9.          Pain in the upper abdomen.

The most common presentations are high blood pressure during pregnancy and protein in the urine, whereas other obvious symptoms may be absent, hence it is important to get BP and urine checked regularly in pregnancy, starting at around 20 weeks, said Dr Binita Priyambada, Senior Consultant, Medical Team at
Which women are at higher risk of developing preeclampsia?

Any women can get preeclampsia during pregnancy, but there are some women who may be at a greater risk than the others. Pregnant women who are more prone to developing this condition include first time mothers, pregnant women who have a previous experience of hypertension during pregnancy, women who have a history of preeclampsia in their families, women carrying multiple babies, pregnant women younger than 20 or older than 40, women with a prior history of hypertension or kidney diseases and overweight women whose BMI (Body Mass Index) is greater than 30.

What is postpartum preeclampsia?

Postpartum preeclampsia is a rare condition that happens soon after childbirth. Women can develop this condition even if they didn’t have high blood pressure or preeclampsia during pregnancy. It can occur within 48 hours of giving birth, but for some, it can take as long as 4 to 6 weeks to develop.

Can you prevent preeclampsia?

Little is known about the measures to prevent preeclampsia, however, early diagnosis will help in avoiding complications. Pregnant women should have their blood pressure checked regularly to ensure that no complications arise. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), a woman should go for a minimum of four antenatal visits ideally at 16 weeks, 24-28 weeks, 32 weeks and 36 weeks. During these visits, the doctor will carry out a thorough examination to ensure the health of the baby as well as the mother, and if any changes in BP and urine protein are noticed, more tests may be prescribed to diagnose the underlying condition.

Lifestyle management can also help pregnant women to avoid pregnancy-related complications. This includes eating a balanced diet and staying physically active and go a long way in keeping the mother and the child healthy. 
Perhaps, the growing awareness for preeclampsia is the right step in the direction for maternal health.

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