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Preeclampsia is a condition of high blood pressure during pregnancy. The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown.

Who is at risk for preeclampsia?

History of high blood pressure prior to pregnancy.

  • First-time mom
  • Family history of preeclampsia during pregnancy
  • Multiple babies, teenage mothers, advanced maternal age mothers
  • Obesity prior to pregnancy
  • History of diabetes, kidney disease, or lupus

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?

Mild preeclampsia:

  • High blood pressure
  • Water retention
  • Protein in the urine
  • Swelling

Severe preeclampsia:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Urinating small amounts
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excessive vomiting and nausea

How do I know if I have preeclampsia?

  • At each prenatal checkup you will be asked to leave a urine sample in order to test for protein and sugar. Your blood pressure and weight is also checked. The provider may order blood tests which may show if you have preeclampsia.

How is preeclampsia treated?

Treatment depends on how close you are to your due date. If you are close to your due date, and the baby is developed enough, your health care provider will probably want to deliver your baby as soon as possible.

If you have mild preeclampsia (blood pressure greater than 140/90 with no prior history of hypertension) and your baby has not reached full development, your doctor will probably recommend you do the following:

  • Rest, lying on your left side to take the weight of the baby off your major blood vessels.
  • Come into the office for more frequent appointments to be monitored.
  • Consume less salt
  • Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

The only real cure for preeclampsia is the birth of the baby.

Other treatments for severe preeclampsia include:

  • Your doctor may try to treat you with blood pressure medication until you are far enough along to deliver safely. Magnesium can be injected into the veins to prevent eclampsia-related seizures.
  • Monitoring fluid intake.

How does preeclampsia affect my baby?

Preeclampsia can prevent the placenta from getting enough blood. If the placenta doesn’t get enough blood, your baby gets less oxygen and food. This can result in low birth weight.

Most women still can deliver a healthy baby if preeclampsia is detected early and treated with regular prenatal care.

How can I prevent preeclampsia?

Currently, there is no sure way to prevent preeclampsia. Some contributing factors to high blood pressure can be controlled and some can’t. Follow your doctor’s instruction about diet and exercise.

  • Use little or no added salt in your meals.
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.
  • Don’t eat a lot of fried foods and junk food.
  • Get enough rest
  • Exercise regularly
  • Elevate your feet several times during the day.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Avoid beverages containing caffeine.
  • Your doctor may suggest you take prescribed medicine and additional supplements.