Pinky Ronen, M.D.
Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition that some women get when they are pregnant. It usually happens during the second half of pregnancy (after 20 weeks). It can also happen during labor or after the baby is born. Women with preeclampsia have high blood pressure and too much protein in their urine. They can also have other serious problems, such as with their liver or kidney. Plus, the baby may not grow well and be small.
Most women with preeclampsia do not feel any different than usual. Preeclampsia usually does not cause symptoms unless it is severe. Signs and symptoms of severe preeclampsia are:
If you have any of these symptoms, tell your doctor or nurse. You may not have preeclampsia, because these symptoms can also occur in normal pregnancies. But it’s important that your doctor know about them.
You should also call your doctor or nurse if you have bleeding from the vagina.
You should call your doctor or nurse if your baby is not moving as much as usual. Your doctor or nurse will do tests to check for any problems with the baby.
Yes. To test for preeclampsia, your doctor or nurse will take your blood pressure and check your urine for protein at each visit during pregnancy. When your doctor or nurse tells you your blood pressure, he or she will say two numbers. For instance, your doctor or nurse might say that your blood pressure is “140 over 90.” To be diagnosed with preeclampsia, your top number (called “systolic pressure”) must be 140 or higher, or your bottom number (called “diastolic pressure”) must be 90 or higher. Plus, you must have too much protein in your urine.
It is possible to have high blood pressure (above 140/90) during pregnancy without having high protein in the urine. That is not preeclampsia. Still, if you develop high blood pressure, your doctor will watch you closely. You could develop preeclampsia or other problems related to high blood pressure.
The only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. Your doctor or nurse will decide whether it is better for you to have your baby right away, or to wait. If you are near your due date, your doctor will probably give you medicine to start contractions. This is called “inducing labor.” Most women are able to give birth the usual way, through the vagina. But in some cases the doctor will need to do a C-section. A C-section, or “cesarean delivery,” is a type of surgery used to get the baby out of the uterus.
If your due date is not for several weeks, and your preeclampsia is not severe, your doctor or nurse might wait to deliver your baby. This is to give the baby more time to grow and develop. If your doctor or nurse decides to wait, he or she will check you and your baby often for any problems. You may need to stay in the hospital.
If your blood pressure is very high, your doctor or nurse might give you medicine to lower blood pressure. This is to keep you from having a stroke. Women with preeclampsia can sometimes have seizures. Your doctor or nurse will probably give you medicine during labor to prevent this.
You can’t do anything to keep from getting preeclampsia. The most important thing you can do is to keep all the appointments you have with your doctor, nurse, or midwife. That way, they can find out as soon as possible if your blood pressure goes up or if you have too much protein in your urine. Also, call them right away if you have symptoms of preeclampsia or the baby isn’t moving as much as usual. Your doctor or nurse can do things to keep you from having worse problems from preeclampsia.