It’s difficult to predict which women will develop preeclampsia during pregnancy, and experts aren’t entirely sure what causes the condition. Unfortunately, these uncertainties might make preeclampsia appear less serious than it really is. In reality, preeclampsia is a serious disorder that needs to be closely monitored by healthcare professionals throughout the duration of a woman’s pregnancy, and the postpartum period.
After diagnosis, it’s very important to monitor the health of those with preeclampsia. The majority of preeclampsia cases will result in a healthy delivery, but the condition can progress very rapidly, which is why it’s important for women and their providers to be aware of any symptoms or physical changes that could indicate a shift in health.
Preeclampsia’s effects on the mother’s body
The condition raises women’s blood pressure, which can potentially cause injury to the brain and seizures. It can cause the lungs to swell, negatively impact the liver and kidneys, and sometimes lead to blood clotting problems. Women who have previously been preeclamptic are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease as well. For these reasons, women with preeclampsia need to be monitored closely for the rest of their current pregnancy, as well as for the duration of all subsequent pregnancies.
Preeclampsia’s effects on the fetus
Preeclampsia can result in placental insufficiency, which means that the placenta has trouble delivering all of the nutrients and oxygen the fetus needs. This can lead to fetal growth restriction and decreased amniotic fluid volume. Preeclampsia is also associated with elevated blood pressure, which can increase a woman’s risk for placental abruption (premature separation of the placenta from the uterus), and preterm delivery. The only immediate treatment for many of the symptoms of preeclampsia is delivery, so depending on the gestational age of the fetus and the severity of the preeclampsia, a healthcare provider may recommend induction. After 37 weeks, regardless of severity, if a diagnosis of preeclampsia is made, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend induction.
The possibility of eclampsia
Eclampsia is a rare complication that women with preeclampsia can develop which involves maternal seizures. It is uncommon, affecting roughly 1 out of 200 women with preeclampsia, but it can pose a serious maternal and fetal threat. It is hard to tell which women with preeclampsia are at risk of developing eclampsia. Most healthcare providers will recommend delivery if eclampsia is diagnosed regardless of fetal gestational age. The mode of delivery is individualized by the healthcare provider.
Preeclampsia can result in serious maternal and fetal complications involving the placenta, kidneys, and liver as well as develop into eclampsia, so it is crucial that women with preeclampsia be monitored, often in the hospital, once they are diagnosed.
- “Preeclampsia and Hypertension in Pregnancy: Resource Overview.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2017. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Preeclampsia: Complications.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jul 3 2014. Web.
- “FAQs.” Preeclampsia. Preeclampsia Foundation, Dec 20 2013. Web.