Who’s at Risk for Preeclampsia?

Aug 03, 2023
Who’s at Risk for Preeclampsia?
Hypertension is a very common problem in the United States. Unfortunately, it’s become even more common among pregnant women, which can endanger mom and baby. Here’s what to know about this condition and how to recognize your risk.

Medicine has come a long way in recent decades. However, certain problems still seem more rampant than ever — including high blood pressure. While dangerous for everyone, it poses even more risks during pregnancy. And, unfortunately, it’s a widespread problem.

When high blood pressure occurs during pregnancy, it’s referred to as preeclampsia. Our providers at Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC, in Glendale, Arizona, know the challenges it can cause. That’s why as part of our high-quality prenatal care, we educate moms-to-be on spotting the warning signs of this problem.

Here’s what you should know about this dangerous condition to protect your life and your baby’s.

Preeclampsia basics

First, your blood pressure can change when you’re carrying a baby, even if you’ve had healthy “normal” numbers your entire life. They can even seem normal until you reach week 20. Then, out of nowhere, your blood pressure can jump to 140/90 or higher. 

What makes this even more problematic is that preeclampsia typically has no symptoms in the earliest stages. That’s where regular prenatal care comes into play. We always check your blood pressure during your scheduled appointments to detect these changes before they progress and cause issues.

If ignored, preeclampsia can cause serious complications and even death. In serious cases, your provider may recommend delivering the baby right away. 

Warning signs of preeclampsia

In most cases, preeclampsia develops gradually. However, it can appear suddenly in some pregnancies. If symptoms do occur, you may notice:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bad headaches
  • Light sensitivity or blurry vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Less urine output
  • Abdominal pain

During an office visit, we might also detect changes in your lab work, such as fewer platelets in your blood, excess protein in your urine, and impaired liver function.

Understanding your risks for preeclampsia

Anyone can develop preeclampsia during pregnancy, but your chances increase if you:

  • Had hypertension before pregnancy
  • Have a family or personal history of the condition
  • Are obese or older than age 35
  • Are having your first baby
  • Are having twins, triplets, or more
  • Had a baby less than two years ago
  • Haven’t had a baby for 10 years
  • Are having a baby with a different father than previous birth(s)
  • Have migraines, diabetes, kidney disease, lupus, or a blood clotting issue
  • Are African American

Your chances of developing preeclampsia can also increase if you got pregnant via in vitro fertilization. 

The dangers of preeclampsia

Without treatment, preeclampsia can endanger the health and life of you and your baby. Here are some of the dangers:

Risks to baby

Preeclampsia restricts blood flow to the placenta, which can impact your baby’s growth in the womb and result in low birth weight. It can also require early delivery. Depending on how early in your pregnancy this occurs, your baby could have underdeveloped lungs and experience breathing problems.

Sometimes, preeclampsia can also cause the placenta to pull away from the inner wall of your uterus. If this occurs, it can trigger severe bleeding and endanger the life of your baby.

Risks to you

Preeclampsia can cause cardiovascular problems for a mother-to-be during pregnancy and in the future. On top of that, it can also increase your risk of damaging your eyes, liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, brain, and other organs.

Finally, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, which includes all of the symptoms of preeclampsia plus seizures. If you experience eclampsia, we must deliver your baby immediately, no matter what stage of development. 

How to manage preeclampsia

An estimated 1 in 25 women develop preeclampsia during their pregnancy. If you’re one of them, we can advise you on exactly what to do. Treatment depends on several factors, primarily the severity of your condition and the gestational age and development of your baby.

Sometimes, we can take action with medications. For instance, drugs can lower blood pressure, corticosteroids can support platelet and liver function, and anticonvulsants can prevent seizures. It’s also common to go on bedrest for preeclampsia. However, this approach can increase your risk for getting blood clots, so we monitor you closely, which may mean staying in the hospital.

If you have preeclampsia, you’re in good hands with our team. We’ve guided many women through high-risk pregnancies, including preeclampsia. The best step you can take to protect you and your baby is to get excellent prenatal care with a skilled and committed team.

To learn more, call 602-298-8977 or book an appointment online with Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC, today.