Preventing preeclampsia

July 17, 2008 by  

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You could be young, healthy, and fit with no history of hypertension. But suddenly, your blood pressure skyrockets to hypertensive levels. And the main reason is – pregnancy.

Preeclampsia, usually used synonymously with pregnancy-induced hypertension, occurs when the blood pressure of a pregnant woman increases dramatically within a short period of time usually during the second half of her pregnancy. This leads to hypertension, kidney damage, inflammation, preterm delivery and premature babies with low birth weights and presents a serious risk to the mother and to the baby. According to, preeclampsia commonly occurs:

  • in women having their first pregnancy
  • in women carrying multiples
  • in women with family history of preeclampsia
  • in pregnant teenagers and those above 40
  • in women with hypertension or kidney problems before they got pregnant

The real cause of preeclampsia hasn´t been identified. It affects about 2 to 8% of pregnancies, making it one of the leading causes of maternal and fetal complications and death worldwide.

In this post, I am reviewing two studies on the prevention and monitoring of preeclampsia.

Blood pressure monitoring

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) could help identify women with early-onset severe pre-eclampsia who are most likely to require early delivery.

according to South African researchers.

They found that by monitoring both diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and day-night blood pressure difference (DND) and combining the mean values, the onset of preeclampsia can be predicted.

The research

studied 44 women presenting with severe pre-eclampsia between 28 and 34 weeks’ gestation, who they managed expectantly for 8 days. They measured the women’s blood pressure every 30 minutes with an automated monitor for 24-hour periods on alternate days.”

The researcher observed that Caesarean sections are significantly lower among pregnant women with normal DND and mean DBP. These women also had, on the average, longer pregnanciey and less very premature babies. Only one delivered before 32 weeks’ gestation.

The authors conclude:

“The combination of mean [DBP and DND] may be a supplementary measurement of disease severity in early onset severe pre-eclampsia and seems to be of prognostic value”

Preeclampsia and exercise

This study involved 79 women who had a previous history of pre-eclampsia and had a sedentary lifestyle. The study compared two types of exercise regime: a 40-minute moderate‑intensity walk 5 times a week and a slow, non-aerobic stretching exercise program accompanying a 40-minute video 5 times a week.

The results of the study are as follows:

15% of women in the walking group developed preeclampsia. Only 5% of women in the stretching group developed the condition.

It seems that stretching had a more protective effect against pregnancy-induced hypertension than walking. The researchers believe that stretching may induce more production of transferrin, which is

a plasma protein that transports iron through the blood and protects against oxidative stress on the body, and that helps guard against preeclampsia.”

However, walking and other moderate forms of exercise are beneficial to the mother’s as well as the baby’s health in general, as posted before. At the same time, any form of exercise regime during pregnancy should only be performed after consultation with your doctor.

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5 Responses to “Preventing preeclampsia”
  1. Lori Levere says:

    I think the explanation of decreased exercise / activity as contributing to the cause of preeclampsia is preposterous. To simplify the cause of the condition is misleading and contributes to the self blame that many women feel about this condition. If it were that simple, many more people would have this condition not the 2-8% you describe.
    Lori Levere

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