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Preeclampsia: how healthcare providers detect it

Throughout the nine months of pregnancy, moms-to-be will go through lots of tests and checkups to make sure that all is going well with both you and Baby. Preeclampsia is one of the most serious and threatening pregnancy conditions, and accordingly among those that your healthcare provider will look most closely for signs of.

What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, and possibly very rapid and significant swelling. If a woman has seizures along with these other symptoms, it is termed “eclampsia”, and is considered life-threatening. High blood pressure and protein in the urine are considered signs of preeclampsia when they develop after week 20 of pregnancy.

How do healthcare providers detect it?

Your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure and may have you leave a urine sample to check for signs of preeclampsia. There is no conclusive test for preeclampsia – it’s simply a judgment call that your healthcare provider makes when you display certain symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, and intense abdominal pain may also be symptomatic of preeclampsia.

If your healthcare provider detects excess protein in your urine, they will test you again in about six hours to see if the problematic measurement is still there. If it is, they may diagnose you with preeclampsia, and closely monitor your signs and symptoms through delivery. If a healthcare provider detects signs of damage to major organs, they may diagnose preeclampsia even if there isn’t an elevated level of protein in urine.

Read more
  • “Signs & Symptoms.” Preeclampsia Foundation. Preeclampsia Foundation, 7/5/2010. Web.
  • “Preeclampsia.” U.S National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, 7/28/2014. Web.
  • “Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy: FAQ034.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 9/14/2015. Web.
  • “Eclampsia.” U.S National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, 2/2/2014. Web.

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