High Blood Pressure (Preeclampsia)

High blood pressure in the mother that appears after the 20th week of pregnancy is called preeclampsia. Severe cases of preeclampsia can be life threatening for both you and your baby.

Preeclampsia appears in about five percent of all pregnancies. The cause is unknown, but it is more likely to happen in:
• First pregnancies
• Pregnant women under 25 or over 35 years old
• Women with chronic conditions such as hypertension, kidney disease, autoimmune disease or diabetes
• Pregnancies with twins or more babies

Risk Associated with Preeclampsia
A severe case of preeclampsia affects the mother’s circulatory system, kidneys, brain and other vital organs. It can restrict the baby’s growth and can cause the amount of fluid in the uterus to become lower than normal. In severe cases, preeclampsia can cause the baby to be stillborn.

Symptoms
• High blood pressure (140-150/90 in mild cases, and 150-180/100-120 in severe cases)
• Swelling from water retention
• Protein in urine
• Headaches, blurred vision and/or low tolerance to bright light
• Fatigue or shortness of breath
• Nausea and vomiting
• Pain in the right upper abdomen
• Producing less than a pint of urine in 24 hours

Many of these symptoms have other causes, but two or more together can signal preeclampsia.

Caring for Mothers with Preeclampsia
Bed rest is the first recommendation for this condition. If your blood pressure stays high and you have elevated protein levels in your urine, you may be admitted to the hospital so we can monitor your symptoms.

Medications may be necessary to lower your blood pressure to a safe level. If the condition worsens, your doctor will treat you with magnesium sulfate to prevent stroke and seizure in the mother. Magnesium sulfate also helps protect the baby’s brain from damage.

Delivering the baby is the only cure for severe preeclampsia. The doctors will attempt to delay delivery in order to administer medications that will help the baby survive outside the womb if born prematurely.