What is Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.
Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are closely related conditions.
It can cause your blood pressure to rise and puts you at risk of stroke or impaired kidney function, impaired liver function, blood clotting problems, pulmonary edema (fluid on the lungs), seizures and, in severe forms, maternal and infant death. Because preeclampsia affects the blood flow and placenta, babies can be smaller and are often born prematurely. Ironically, sometimes the babies can be much larger. While maternal death from preeclampsia is rare in the U.S., it is a leading cause of illness and death globally for mothers and infants.
HELLP Syndrome and eclampsia are other manifestations of the same syndrome. It is important to note that research shows that more women die from preeclampsia than eclampsia and one is not necessarily more serious than the other. Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.
What is HELLP Syndrome?
HELLP Syndrome occurs in 4 percent to 12 percent of the women who have preeclampsia. It is one of the most severe forms of preeclampsia. HELLP stands for: hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and lowered platelets. HELLP
It can be fatal to both the mother and the baby. HELLP Syndrome occurs in tandem with preeclampsia, but because HELLP Syndrome's symptoms may happen before preeclampsia's three findings (high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling), they may be misdiagnosed as symptoms of gastritis, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), acute hepatitis, gall bladder disease, and other conditions. As a result, the mother may not get the right treatment, leaving both mother and baby that much more at risk.
The most common reasons for the mother to die are liver rupture or stroke, (cerebral edema or cerebral hemorrhage). These can be prevented if it's caught in time!
What is the cure?
The only cure is delivery of the baby. When preeclampsia develops, the mother and her baby are monitored carefully. There are medications and treatments that may prolong the pregnancy, which can increase the baby's chances of health and survival. Unfortunately, once the course of preeclampsia has begun, the health of the mother must be constantly weighed against the health of the baby. In some cases, the baby must be delivered immediately, regardless of gestational age, to save the mother's and/or baby's lives.