If you’ve been diagnosed with preeclampsia, you might be wondering what your road to labor looks like. Management of preeclampsia can vary, because it depends on factors like how early in pregnancy the diagnosis is made, and how severe their condition is. Regardless of these factors though, there are some things that you’ll want to know about how to manage your preeclampsia for the rest of your pregnancy.
Prenatal care is essential
This goes for all women with preeclampsia, because prenatal care is one of the most important factors that will increase one’s chances for a healthy birth, and will protect an infant’s well-being also. Good prenatal care includes early detection of the condition, close monitoring of your health, and help managing the symptoms; as well as tests of fetal well-being.
You’ll be monitored closely
Once diagnosed, it’s possible that you’ll stay in an outpatient treatment program, but even if you are in an outpatient program, it’s not guaranteed that you won’t be hospitalized before your due date. If you aren’t hospitalized, you’ll still have to record a daily kick count for your baby, and monitor blood pressure at least twice every day. Some doctors and practices admit every woman diagnosed with preeclampsia to the hospital, so it’s possible that you’d be admitted, regardless of the time of onset or severity.
You might be prescribed medication
While the only real ‘cure’ for preeclampsia is delivery, you might be prescribed medication to manage certain aspects of your condition to prolong the pregnancy. Some of the most common medications are:
- Antihypertensive medication, like hydralazine or labetalol, which help manage high blood pressure. Some anti-hypertensive medications aren’t safe to use during pregnancy, and others have side effects that make them contraindicated (not recommended during pregnancy), so you’ll want to make sure that any antihypertensive medication you take is only through a healthcare provider’s prescription.
- Corticosteroids are often prescribed to women with severe preeclampsia, who are likely to have their babies before their due dates. This class of medicine helps accelerate fetal lung maturation and development to reduce the risk of respiratory distress once the baby is born.
- Seizure-prevention medication, if a woman is in the hospital and her provider feels that she is at risk of seizures (a sign of eclampsia) due to severe preeclampsia. Magnesium sulfate may be administered because it reduces the risk of seizures.
Your birth plan might change
Vaginal delivery is the method of birth that many healthcare providers prefer for women with preeclampsia, but sometimes, this isn’t feasible. Know that you might be delivered early, and you might need to have a C-section – but all of this is done to reach the healthiest outcome possible as preeclampsia can be a rapidly (even within hours) progressive disease. If you’re concerned about the chances of either an earlier birth or a C-section, ask your healthcare provider to outline the possibility of both.
It’s okay to feel scared, or to want more emotional support
Upon getting pregnant, many women imagine their pregnancy and birth experience going a certain way. Unfortunately, being diagnosed with preeclampsia can change this plan, which can be shocking or scary. If you find yourself worrying excessively about the health of your pregnancy, or if you’re still confused about treatment or any of the risks involved, don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider for more information, and definitely reach out to a partner, family member, or a friend, if you’re having a hard time taking your mind off the situation.
For more support resources, you can contact the Preeclampsia Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
- Lelia Duley, et al. “Management of pre-eclampsia.” BMJ. 332(7539). Web. Feb 2006.
- Lana K Wagner. “Diagnosis and Management of Preeclampsia.” Am Fam Physician. 70(12):2317-2324. Web. Dec 15 2004.