Preeclampsia affects 7 in 100 pregnant Black women. Those who are at a higher risk for developing this condition can get ahead of it by using medications such as low-dose aspirin and simple interventions like monitoring blood pressure for spikes and dips. Equity is a vital piece to this conversation as it impacts pregnant people’s experiences with healthcare. Preeclampsia can lead to preterm delivery and other complications, which is why we recommend learning about the signs and symptoms of elevated blood pressure.
What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a condition that may cause organ damage, especially to the liver and kidneys. It’s not known exactly what causes preeclampsia, but those in the following groups are more likely to experience it:
- Those with a history of chronic hypertension
- Those over 35 or under 18
- Those who are pregnant with multiples
- Those who used IVF to conceive
You can manage the symptoms of preeclampsia with the guidance of a provider using medications and other monitoring to avoid it progressing or turning into eclampsia, which can be a life threatening condition to you and baby.
Questions to ask your provider
Ask your doctor to walk you through any risk factors you might have for preeclampsia. You may want to ask questions such as:
- Am I at risk for preeclampsia due to my health history? (blood pressure, age, means of conception, etc.)
- What should I be doing to prevent preeclampsia?
- Should I take low-dose aspirin?
- What signs and symptoms should I look out for throughout my pregnancy?
- How often should I talk to you about preeclampsia or any particular symptoms?
Your patient bill of rights
You have a right to understand your health and risk factors for particular conditions. Make sure you understand not only what your provider recommends, but also why they are recommending a certain course of action. It can be helpful to bring your support system with you to appointments, whether that’s your partner, a family member, or a doula.
Ultimately, you know your body best. If something feels ‘off’ at any point, check in with one of Ovia’s Health Coaches to discuss next steps and see if you should call your provider. If you ever feel like it is an emergency, dial 911 or make your way to the nearest hospital’s emergency department. The more you listen to your body — and the more you ask questions to understand the changes you’re experiencing — the better equipped you will be to know when to seek help.
- Fingar, Kathryn R, et all. “Delivery Hospitalizations Involving Preeclampsia and Eclampsia, 2005-2014.” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Department of Health & Human Services. April 2017. https://hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb222-Preeclampsia-Eclampsia-Delivery-Trends.jsp.
- “Preeclampsia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments & Prevention.” Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. October 14, 2021. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17952-preeclampsia.
- “High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 6, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/pregnancy.htm.
- “Preeclampsia: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. January 12, 2022, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000898.htm.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Preeclampsia.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. March 19, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preeclampsia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355751.