During a long labor, delivering my first son, Sam, I developed preeclampsia. The news was scary during an already emotional time and I didn't really know what the word meant. I wasn't alone and now, doctors are speaking out during Preeclampsia Awareness Month, in an effort to educate moms.
"Preeclampsia is a disease that is specific to pregnancy and the placenta," says Dr. Adam Borgida, Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Hartford Hospital. "What happens, we believe, is that there is poor blood flow to the uterus and plactenta which causes some kind of reaction in a mother that basically effects all the blood vessels in her body. The most common manifestation is high blood pressure and often swelling and protein in her urine."
According to Borgida, 10% of all patients may develop preeclampsia. Women with risk factors such as twins, chronic hypertension and diabetes have a 30% chance of developing the disease.
While the condition is most commonly seen as a pregnancy progresses, it can occur at any time during the nine months. This is why routine prenatal care includes the taking of blood pressure and urine samples. Borgida says diagnosis is fairly straightforward but there are some signs that moms can look out for: "The most common things would be headache, especially an unrelenting headache, blurry vision...also abdominal pain."
While this is a maternal disease, there can be an impact on the infant. "If we determine that it's a significant risk to mom and baby that means the baby is born....if a mother isn't healthy obviously it can have a health impact on the baby," explains Borgida. "If you have mildly elevated blood pressure close to your due date, it's not that big a deal. But, if you have severe blood pressure elevations, it can lead to bleeding, stroke, blindness. If you have damage in your liver or kidneys this can be a devastating disease if it goes unrecognized."
Preeclampsia leads to eclampsia which means "seizures of pregnancy".
Borgida reports new research: "If you had an early delivery due to preeclampsia, there's recommendations now that you should take baby aspirin in pregnancy." Talk to your OBGYN. This could reduce risk for patients embarking on another pregnancy.
To raise awareness, the Preeclampsia Foundation is asking women to take a pledge to know the symptoms and spread the word.
Click here for more information.