The Symptoms and Treatment of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs during pregnancy. High blood pressure that occurs after approximately 20 weeks of pregnancy is a symptom of preeclampsia. Increased amounts of protein show up in the urine as well. Because of the dangers associated with preeclampsia, even a small rise in blood pressure can indicate a problem. Severe complications can result if preeclampsia is left untreated. Death is possible if the disease progresses far enough.

One of the most prominent symptoms of preeclampsia is elevated blood pressure. Changes in vision accompanied by severe headaches may occur as well. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting and sudden weight gain can also indicate the gradual onset of preeclampsia. Abdominal pain that occurs under the rib cage can also be present. As preeclampsia begins to worsen, excess protein can build up in the urine. Eventually urine output will decrease causing pain and discomfort. Swelling may also occur, but can be a symptom of other aspects of pregnancy. 

Blood pressure should be checked frequently during pregnancy to ensure the health of both mother and child. If a woman has a history of high blood pressure or a prior pregnancy with preeclampsia, a doctor may recommend more frequent visits after the 20th week, to more closely monitor blood pressure.

Other than medications to control blood pressure, there are few treatment options available. The only remedy for preeclampsia is childbirth. When the condition occurs before the baby is able to be born, bed rest may be recommended to avoid stress and the risk of a miscarriage. Activities must be restricted and only periods of sitting and standing are permitted when absolutely necessary.

Corticosteroids may be prescribed to improve liver function. They also strengthen platelets and can actually prolong the length of the pregnancy. In the case of possible premature birth, corticosteroids can help the lungs of the infant mature enough to survive outside of the womb.

In cases where preeclampsia is severe, anticonvulsive medications may be prescribed to prevent the onset of seizures due to excessively high blood pressure.

When preeclampsia is diagnosed near the end of the pregnancy, a C-section may be considered, depending on the severity of the condition. For mild cases, the doctor may choose to induce labor. In either case, the mother’s blood pressure and other vital signs are monitored several times a day. 

After delivery of the baby, all symptoms of preeclampsia should eventually disappear within a few weeks. If any symptoms remain for longer than a month or two, a physician should be consulted to make sure there are no other underlying illnesses.