Why is preeclampsia a reason for delivery?

Labor induction can be an important part of many different types of complicated births, and is one of the best tools doctors have at their disposal in the case of serious or late-appearing preeclampsia. This doesn’t mean that all women who are diagnosed with preeclampsia will be induced, but it does mean that it’s a good idea for women who are diagnosed with preeclampsia to understand that the chance of an induction – even an early one – has just gone up, though their doctors are going to do their best to help them carry until as close to term as possible.

As preeclampsia progresses and gets worse, it can cause serious complications that can threaten the health of both mom and baby, including complications involving the liver or kidneys, trouble with blood clotting, or a progression to eclampsia, which can cause seizures. Since the only immediate treatment for preeclampsia is delivery, if these symptoms start to get serious enough that they’re more dangerous to both mom and baby than an early delivery might be, doctors will generally induce labor.

Women who are closer to 37 weeks pregnant are significantly more likely to be induced if symptoms and complications worsen. Since babies born before 34 weeks have much higher risks of complications, doctors are less likely to induce labor before then in any but the most serious circumstances. One study shows that women with preeclampsia who are induced after 34 weeks pregnant have a 48% chance of having successful vaginal deliveries.

The other option besides induction as complications worsen is C-section, but a study published in the American Journal of Gynecology found that in most cases, performing a C-section as a way to end preeclampsia carries about the same level of risk as induction. In addition, C-sections are considered major surgery, so unless there is a specific reason for a particular woman with preeclampsia to have a C-section, it’s likely that she’ll be induced to at least try for a vaginal birth first.

It’s important to remember that, even with a diagnosis of preeclampsia, with careful treatment and monitoring, many women will go on to give birth to healthy babies without the condition making too much of an impact on their experiences. Monitoring and management are important, though, and so is knowing the possibilities of the effects preeclampsia can have on a pregnancy.

Want to help other women with preeclampsia? The Preeclampsia Registry provides approved researchers with access to “de-identified” health information – information that does not contain participant names or contact information. This helps researchers to find patterns among preeclampsia survivors that can lead to findings and further studies. Researchers may also pose new questions to a large and willing audience, a strategy that usually takes much longer without a registry.

The Preeclampsia Registry also gives its participants the option of learning about other research studies for which they may qualify, and provides them with the means of connecting with these researchers.

Most importantly, patient registries unite the patient voice with clinical research. Patients have questions, theories, and interests that are often different from investigators conducting formal research. By engaging patients in the research process, as we can through patient registries, the chances for discovery and improvement are an even greater possibility.

For more information about patient registries, visit http://www.nih.gov/health/clinicaltrials/registries.htm        

To learn more about The Preeclampsia Registry, go to www.preeclampsiaregistry.org

Learn more

  • “Preeclampsia and Hypertension in Pregnancy: Resource Overview.” ACOG.  American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2017. Web.
  • Shivani Patel. “Preeclampsia can strike suddenly during pregnancy.” UTSWMedicine. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Sep 29 2015. Web.
  • “Health Information: FAQs.” Preeclampsia.org. Preeclampsia Foundation, Dec 20 2013. Web.
  • CD Mashiloane, J. Moodley. “Induction or caesarean section for preterm pre-eclampsia?” J Obstet Gynaecol. 22(4):353-6. Web. Jul 2002. 
  • MC Alanis, et al. “Early-onset severe preeclampsia: induction of labor vs elective cesarean delivery and neonatal outcomes.” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 199(3):262.e1-6. Web. Sep 2008. 
  • AH Nassar, et al. “Severe preeclampsia remote from term: labor induction or elective cesarean delivery?” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 179(5):1210-3. Web. Nov 1998. 
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