How does preeclampsia affect women during pregnancy?

Pre-eclampsia is a complication of pregnancy characterized by elevated blood pressure, proteinuria and edema.  The pathophysiologic change associated with pre-eclampsia is generalized vasospasm or constriction of the vascular structures throughout the body. In addition to the characteristic signs of high blood pressure, proteinuria and edema, the vasospasm can also cause decreased blood flow to other organs including the uterus/placenta/fetus resulting in poor fetal growth and risk of placenta abruption.

Carolyn  Thomas
Preeclampsia may not only be a serious concern during pregnancy itself. Women diagnosed with preeclampsia also have a two to three-fold increased risk of developing heart disease down the road. In fact, the American Heart Association added preeclampsia and other pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes for the first time ever to its annual published guidelines for preventing women's heart disease in 2011.
"Pregnancy is the ultimate cardiac stress test", according to Canadian researcher Dr. Graeme Smith, whose groundbreaking study on the link between preeclampsia and cardiovascular disease was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2009. He and his team at the Queen’s University Perinatal Research Unit have launched the unique MotHERS Program in Kington, Ontario in order to follow at-risk mothers diagnosed with pregnancy complications like preeclampsia. Dr. Smith warns:
“Pregnancy is a window of opportunity to screen women for health risks to ensure health preservation and disease prevention. Too much of health care is spent reacting to disease after it’s happened, and not enough is spent on prevention. This is a place to start!”

Preeclampsia (pree-ee-CLAMP-see-uh) – A condition starting after 20 weeks of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and problems with the kidneys and other organs. Also called toxemia.

    • High blood pressure
    • Swelling of hands and face
    • Too much protein in urine
    • Stomach pain
    • Blurred vision
    • Dizziness
    • Headaches

The only cure is delivery, which may not be best for the baby. Labor will probably be induced if condition is mild and the woman is near term (37 to 40 weeks of pregnancy). If it is too early to deliver, the doctor will watch the health of the mother and her baby very closely. She may need medicines and bed rest at home or in the hospital to lower her blood pressure. Medicines also might be used to prevent the mother from having seizures.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.