Preeclampsia is both highly dangerous and highly manageable. A blood pressure disorder that can occur during pregnancy, preeclampsia can lead to organ failure, seizures, and death. But it also has a clear cure: the delivery of the fetus.
And fetuses can be delivered earlier now than ever before; in 2011, a baby girl named Frieda was delivered in Germany after only 21 weeks and five days. So when preeclampsia develops, the standard treatment is to carefully monitor the mother and then induce labor if the preeclampsia becomes too severe.
Some of the risk factors for preeclampsia are beyond your control, but others can be treated with medication or lifestyle changes. If you're planning on becoming pregnant, discuss your risk of preeclampsia with your ob/gyn.
Risk Factors You Can Change
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for preeclampsia. Working with your doctor to manage your hypertension, whether through diet and exercise or medication, can lower your chances of developing preeclampsia during pregnancy. Diet and exercise are doubly helpful because obesity is another risk factor.
Besides hypertension, there are several other medical conditions that raise the risk of preeclampsia: diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and kidney disease. While you may not be able to change the fact that you have one of these conditions, if you suffer from any of these, it's especially important to keep it well-managed if you're planning to become pregnant.
Risk Factors That Can't Be Changed
Some cases of preeclampsia have genetic components; if you have a history of preeclampsia in your family or you have had preeclampsia during previous pregnancies, your risk is increased. The older you are, the higher your risk, especially after the age of 35. And if you become pregnant with twins or multiples, your risk of preeclampsia goes up.
What To Do If You're At Risk And Pregnant
If you have an elevated risk of preeclampsia, you should discuss the possibility of monitoring for symptoms with your ob/gyn. Most likely, this will involve you keeping track of your blood pressure at home since increased blood pressure is an early sign of the condition.
Your ob/gyn, on the other hand, can give you regular blood and urine tests. High amounts of protein in the urine are a classic early sign that can easily go unnoticed without testing. Blood tests, on the other hand, can throw up many hidden signs, such as a high percentage of red blood cells, low platelet count, abnormal liver enzymes or increased uric acid in the blood.
By combining home monitoring with medical tests, you should be able to catch any preeclampsia in time to manage it safely.