Pre-Eclampsia

By Zenobia Harris, DNP, MPH


According to the CDC, Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. One of the leading causes of pregnancy related death in Black women is hypertension or pre-eclampsia (also known as toxemia).

With Preeclampsia and Post Partum Eclampsia , you might have high blood pressure, high levels of protein in urine that indicate kidney damage (proteinuria), or other signs of organ damage, sometimes with no warning. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had previously been in the standard range. Post Partum Eclampsia usually manifests in the days, weeks and sometimes months after delivery. Left untreated, preeclampsia and Eclampsia can lead to serious — even fatal — complications.

Early delivery of the baby is often recommended. The timing of delivery depends on how severe the preeclampsia is and how many weeks pregnant you are. Before delivery, preeclampsia treatment includes careful monitoring and medications to lower blood pressure and manage complications. The first signs of preeclampsia are often detected during routine prenatal visits with a health care provider, This is one reason why routine prenatal and post natal care is so important.

Along with high blood pressure, preeclampsia signs and symptoms may include:

· Excess protein in urine (proteinuria) or other signs of kidney problems

· Decreased levels of platelets in the blood

· Increased liver enzymes that indicate liver problems

· Severe headaches

· Changes in vision, including temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or sensitivity to light light

· Shortness of breath, caused by fluid in the lungs

· Pain in the upper belly, usually under the ribs on the right side

· Nausea or vomiting

Some weight gain and swelling are typical during healthy pregnancies. However, sudden weight gain or a sudden appearance of swelling— especially in the face and hands — may be a sign of preeclampsia.

Keeping routine prenatal visits so that your health care provider can monitor your blood pressure is essential to the early detection and treatment of Pre-eclampsia/Eclampsia. Contact your provider immediately or go to an emergency room if you have severe headaches, blurred vision or other visual disturbances, severe belly pain, or severe shortness of breath.

If you're concerned about any symptoms you experience, contact your health provider.