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Signs Of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia: What is it? How do you test for it? When does it happen?

Michelle Baynham

28 Oct 2022

What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is when a woman in her 20th week of pregnancy or beyond, has seriously high blood pressure. This is a red flag that organs like the liver and kidneys are not performing correctly. Preeclampsia then places further stress on the heart resulting in a number of problems during pregnancy. 

Preeclampsia affects 2%-8% of pregnancies worldwide and is considered a serious health condition for pregnant women. It can also be the cause of premature births.
The majority of cases, if treated correctly, still result in having a healthy baby. However, it's vital to get support when the condition is diagnosed. Otherwise, you and your baby may experience some major health problems going forward.

Specific Signs of preeclampsia?

  • Shifts in vision - experiencing blurriness, seeing spots, overly sensitive to light.
  • Persistent headache that fails to go away
  • Feeling nauseous and dizzy
  • Pains in the upper portion of the belly or shoulder
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Sudden swelling in the legs and hands. Can also sometimes happen in the face
  • Issues with breathing
  • Keep in mind that many of these signs are common discomforts that come with pregnancy. However, they can also indicate something more severe. Contact your healthcare provider immediately even if you are experiencing just one of the above.

How the signs of preeclampsia can affect you and your baby

If you don't receive treatment during pregnancy for preeclampsia, it can lead to serious health complications, both for you and your baby. Extreme cases can even result in death. It's vital to attend all prenatal checkups as you may have preeclampsia without knowing it. Even the slightest sign of preeclampsia should be bought to your healthcare provider's attention.
Specific health problems for women who are diagnosed with preeclampsia include:
  • Brain damage
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney deterioration
  • Issues with how your blood clots - Your body will create a blood clot to control and stop bleeding when you suffer from a skin wound (cuts, graze, scrape).
  • Eclampsia - A condition where pregnant women will suffer from multiple seizures or go into a coma after suffering from preeclampsia. This a rare condition but also life-threatening
  • Stroke

Health problems that affect the baby during pregnancy

  • Premature birth - This can happen even with treatment. An early birth will be needed to stop the progression of health problems for you and your baby.
  • Placental abruption - This happens when the placenta detaches itself from the womb before childbirth. Your baby will receive a lack of oxygen and nutrients if a placental abruption happens.
  • Low birth weight
  • Vaginal Bleeding - also a sign of placental abruption post 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) - This is diagnosed when the baby's rate of growth in the womb is much slower than normal. 

Understanding the types of preeclampsia tests

Preeclampsia can mean lots of tests, of many different kinds. You may be curious why your healthcare provider is conducting so many different tests? And understanding the outcome of all these different tests? Use the guide below to gain an understanding of what exact test may be conducted during pregnancy, when and why.