What Is Preeclampsia, and Why Is it Dangerous?

Preeclampsia is a medical condition associated with pregnancy. It is often diagnosed after the mother’s 20th week of pregnancy if her blood pressure has reached elevated levels. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released new guidelines that do not require high levels of protein to be found in the urine of the mother in order for preeclampsia to be diagnosed any longer. New evidence has found that problems with organs can be found without protein present.

Symptoms of preeclampsia

The symptoms of preeclampsia include the following:

  • Severe headaches
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Change in your vision
  • Impaired function of the liver
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Decreased output of urine
  • Fluid in lungs that leads to shortness of breath
  • Lowered platelet levels in your blood
  • Kidney problems
  • Sudden swelling and weight gain, especially in your hands and face

What causes preeclampsia?

There is no exact, definite cause of preeclampsia because doctors and other experts believe it involves multiple factors. The Mayo Clinic explains it this way:

Experts believe [preeclampsia] begins in the placenta — the organ that nourishes the fetus throughout pregnancy. Early in pregnancy, new blood vessels develop and evolve to efficiently send blood to the placenta.

In women with preeclampsia, these blood vessels don’t seem to develop or function properly. They’re narrower than normal blood vessels and react differently to hormonal signaling, which limits the amount of blood that can flow through them.

What leads to this narrowing is still unclear. It could be genetic or immune, or damage to those blood vessels.

The risk factors of preeclampsia

Women who have any of the following risk factors could wind up developing preeclampsia during pregnancy:

  • Multiple pregnancy: twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc.
  • Family history of preeclampsia
  • Women over 40 who are pregnant
  • Obesity
  • Chronic hypertension
  • Having children more than 10 years apart or less than two years apart
  • New paternity
  • In vitro fertilization
  • If you suffer from kidney disease, Type 1 or 2 diabetes, chronic high blood pressure, lupus, and blood clots

Why is preeclampsia so dangerous?

Preeclampsia is so dangerous because it involves high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a serious health issue to begin with, potentially leading to stroke or even death. Untreated preeclampsia can also lead to eclampsia, “a rare but serious condition where high blood pressure results in seizures during pregnancy.” It affects about 1 out of every 200 pregnant women, and the seizures can begin before, during, or after the birthing process.

Since many women who are pregnant don’t always experience symptoms of preeclampsia, it is important to exercise, eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. It’s also important to seek regular care before, during and after the pregnancy.

Preeclampsia has been linked to pregnancy loss as it is associated with stillbirth. This birth injury is also a leading cause of premature birth, which is when a baby is born prior to week 37 of the pregnancy. A leading cause of infant death is premature birth. As you can see, it’s important to seek medical care to spot the possible warning signs of preeclampsia.

Women who suffer from preeclampsia could face serious medical problems and are at risk for the birth injury turning fatal for them and their babies. It’s vital that you speak to an experienced birth injury attorney in Mississippi if you have been diagnosed with preeclampsia. Call the office of Merkel & Cocke, PA at 662-627-9641 to schedule a consultation or complete our contact form. We have offices in Jackson, Clarksdale, and Oxford to better serve our clients.