Preeclampsia belongs to a group of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Other related disorders are pregnancy-induced hypertension and toxaemia. These conditions can cause life-threatening pregnancy complications that endanger both the mother and the baby.
The conditions are all characterized by elevated blood pressure during the second half of pregnancy but in addition, preeclampsia is characterized by increased concentrations of proteins in the urine.
About 10% of pregnancies are affected by pregnancy-induced hypertension while preeclampsia affects 5 to8% of pregnancies. Preeclampsia is common in low-income countries, where it occurs in about 1 out of every 100 up to 1 out of 700 pregnancies. In contrast, it estimated to occur in about 1 in 1000 pregnancies (Source: Clinical Evidence BMJ).
Aside from high blood pressure, symptoms of preeclampsia also include “swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision“.
It has always been thought that once the baby is delivered, the condition of preeclampsia is resolved. Apparently not, according to this joint research by American and Danish researchers. The effects of preeclampsia may actually track through life and brings with it increased risk for future cardiovascular problems including hypertension, diabetes and blood clots. And the risks increase with every pregnancy.
According to lead author Dr. Michael J. Paidas, director of the Program for Thrombosis and Hemostasis in Women’s Health in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Science at Yale University:
“The only reliable treatment for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby. But while delivery may ‘cure’ preeclampsia in the moment, these mothers are at high risk of chronic hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus and blood clots for the rest of their lives.”
There is therefore a great need to prevent preeclampsia not only to prevent complications that threaten both mother and baby, but also to prevent long-term health problems.
According to MayoClinic, preeclampsia may be caused by the following:
- Insufficient blood flow to the uterus
- Damage to the blood vessels
- A problem with the immune system
- Poor diet
The risk factors for the condition are
- First pregnancy
- Preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
- Maternal age above 35
- Pregnancy with multiples
- Gestational diabetes
- Family of history preeclampsia
- Underlying medical conditions before pregnancy such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or kidney disorder.
Aside from medical management, lifestyle changes can also help prevent or manage preeclampsia. Previous studies, for example, indicate that preeclampsia can be prevented by exercise and intake of dietary fiber.