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What are the Symptoms of Preeclampsia?

Article Details
  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Preeclampsia is a disorder that can affect a pregnant woman and the fetus she carries. It is a common cause of death in pregnant women, but overall, the risk of death from preeclampsia is low. Symptoms of preeclampsia include nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness and fluid retention. Women with mild or moderate cases of this disorder might not experience any symptoms of preeclampsia. In these situations, preeclampsia generally is diagnosed during routine prenatal tests.

There are several theories that attempt to explain how preeclampsia develops, but the exact cause remains unknown. Theories include decreased uterine blood flow because of blood vessel damage or other factors and an unspecified disorder of the immune system. Much of the current evidence concerning the cause of preeclampsia suggests that the disease develops because of circulation problems triggered by placental proteins.

Women who are at least 20 weeks pregnant have a 5- to 14-percent chance of developing preeclampsia, depending on certain risk factors. These include kidney disease, diabetes and urinary tract infection. There are two diagnostic criteria for the disease: high blood pressure and elevated amounts of protein in the urine. Diagnosis is therefore made after blood pressure tests and urine analysis confirm that abnormal values are present.

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High blood pressure and protein in the urine are diagnostic criteria but are not warning signs that a woman will easily recognize as symptoms of preeclampsia. There are, however, several other signs and symptoms of preeclampsia that a woman might notice if she develops the disorder. Possible symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, vision disturbance, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Another common symptom is increased fluid retention, but this might not always be apparent, because many women retain fluid during pregnancy. When fluid retention occurs, it often is accompanied by decreased urination.

In addition, there are some symptoms of preeclampsia that can indicate a severe case of the disorder that might be life-threatening to the pregnant woman or the fetus she is carrying. These symptoms can include an altered consciousness or mental state, an extreme headache, blindness, seizures and coma. The presence of these symptoms usually indicates that a woman has progressed from preeclampsia to eclampsia.

In all cases, after a woman has been diagnosed with preeclampsia, her health is monitored carefully by her doctor or another healthcare provider for signs that the disorder might be worsening. Sometimes, preeclampsia can make it difficult for a woman to continue her pregnancy safely. In these cases, she might be given medication or other treatments to help her continue with the pregnancy until her baby is old enough to be delivered.

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