Preeclampsia: Approximately 2 – 6 % of healthy, first-time pregnant women will develop a complication called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is diagnosed when a woman develops high blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy and there is protein present in her urine (this is why a urine sample is analyzed at every prenatal appointment). Preeclampsia can develop into eclampsia, an even more serious condition, if not detected and treated. There are several signs and symptoms of preeclampsia that pregnant women should learn and be familiar with so that it is caught early:
- headache and/or dizziness
- vision changes
- excessive or sudden swelling/weight gain in the face, hands, or legs
- pain in the right upper stomach
Preeclampsia rarely progresses to eclampsia in women who receive prenatal care, because care providers routinely check urine for protein, check blood pressure, and ask women about these signs and symptoms. When preeclampsia develops during pregnancy, the only cure is delivery of the fetus and placenta. When severe preeclampsia develops early in the pregnancy, medications are often used to minimize the risk to mother and baby, but early delivery is often unavoidable.
Preeclampsia risk is not over after birth though. Women are still at risk for preeclampsia during the first 6 weeks of the postpartum period.