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What Is Preeclampsia?

Last updated on June 10, 2019

Have you heard from your Houston OB/GYN or a friend that you may have preeclampsia?

You may have started freaking out, as this can sound like a roadblock in your pregnancy. Will you have a normal birth with this condition? Or will it affect your baby in any way? To determine if you have preeclampsia, schedule a visit with your obstetrician as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Over the duration of your pregnancy, your doctor will run a series of routine tests. This may include drawing blood, checking your blood pressure, and running urinalysis to make sure there are no life-threatening conditions to you or your baby.

Preeclampsia is a prenatal condition wherein high blood pressure is a significant concern. Common symptoms include swelling in the face, hands, and feet.

But know that even with preeclampsia you have good chances of having a healthy birth and baby.

Some Facts on Preeclampsia

  • Preeclampsia affects around 5 percent of pregnancies
  • Preeclampsia usually develops during the third trimester or after 20 weeks in the womb
  • When left untreated, preeclampsia can turn into eclampsia, which is a life-threatening condition
  • Potential causes of preeclampsia are genetic factors, blood vessel issues, and autoimmune disorders
  • Protein in the urine and high BP are hallmarks of preeclampsia
  • In mild preeclampsia, the higher end of your BP is 140 (120 is average) while the lower is 90 or more (80 is normal)
  • In severe preeclampsia, the top number is 160 while the bottom is 100 or more

“Genetic factors, blood vessel issues, and autoimmune disorders are potential causes of Preeclampsia.”


In some cases, preeclampsia develops without any symptoms. Your blood pressure might gradually rise, or shoot up all of a sudden.

That’s why monitoring your BP is a crucial aspect of prenatal care. When your blood pressure exceeds 140/90, documented twice, at least four hours apart, it is abnormal.

Some other common symptoms include:

  • Excess protein in the urine or some other kidney problems
  • Decreased urine output
  • Lower levels of platelets in your body
  • Shortness of breath, as a result of fluid in your lungs
  • Liver function problems
  • Abdominal pain, under the ribs on your right side
  • Frequent and severe headaches
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Light sensitivity or temporary loss of vision
  • Tiredness

Risk Factors

Certain factors that increase the risk of preeclampsia are:

  • First Pregnancy

The risk is highest for developing preeclampsia if it is your first pregnancy.

  • History of Preeclampsia

Family or personal history of preeclampsia can increase your chances of getting preeclampsia.

  • Chronic Hypertension

Women who are already suffering from hypertension have a higher risk of preeclampsia.

  • Age

There’s a higher risk of preeclampsia in young women (under the age of 20) and older women (over the age of 40).

  • Obesity

Women with a BMI of 30 or higher and obese women are at a higher risk.

  • Multiple Pregnancies

Women carrying twins or triplets have a higher chance of developing preeclampsia.

  • New Paternity

A new sperm source like a sperm donor or a new partner increases the risk of preeclampsia, compared to a second or third pregnancy with the same partner.

“Women under the age of 20 and older women over the age of 40 are at high risk of preeclampsia.”


Houston OB/Gyn

It’s natural to worry if diagnosed with preeclampsia, but your Houston OB/GYN will help you with the best road to recovery while keeping your baby safe.

The only way to cure preeclampsia is to deliver your baby. If the mother’s blood pressure doesn’t come down, she is at a higher risk of stroke, bleeding, seizures, or separation of the placenta from the uterus.

Complications of preeclampsia can affect both mother and baby. This may include preterm birth, organ damage, fetal developmental delays, seizures or more. Your doctor will be able to treat you based on how severe your symptoms are, how far along in your pregnancy you are, and how well your baby is doing.

For those who’ve had preeclampsia before, your Houston OB/Gyn will recommend prenatal sessions more frequently.

Some medications help to lower your blood pressure. In the case of severe preeclampsia, your doctor might also prescribe drugs to prevent a first seizure. Some medicines also help in improving liver function and prolonging the pregnancy.

Rest Matters

In the case of mild preeclampsia wherein, the patient is far from the delivery date, Houston OB/Gyn experts might recommend complete rest. Resting will keep your blood pressure in control, increase blood flow to the placenta, and benefit the baby.

While doctors advise some women to only lie in bed, they might allow others to sit on the sofa or an armchair. But physical activities are mostly limited during this time. You will have to opt for regular urine and blood pressure tests. Monitoring your baby at the same time is also recommended.

In severe cases, you may need hospitalization for extended rest and treatment.

“Resting keeps your blood pressure in control, increases blood flow to the placenta, and benefits the baby.”

Postpartum Preeclampsia

In rare cases, it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy and develop postpartum preeclampsia after giving birth. Most often, this happens within 48 hours of your baby’s birth. However, postpartum preeclampsia can occur up to 6 weeks after birth. If you notice any symptoms mentioned above, it is best to visit your Houston OB/Gyn immediately.

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