Preeclampsia, which is indicated by by high blood pressure and abnormal urine protein levels, is a condition an expectant mother may develop after her 20th week of pregnancy. In some cases, the rise in blood pressure can be severe and cause problems for a woman and her baby. In fact, it is possible for the rise in blood pressure to be severe enough to lead to the death of the affected woman and her unborn child. Preeclampsia and blood pressure are related because a sustained blood pressure reading at or above 140/90 is a symptom of preeclampsia.
When a woman has preeclampsia, she has a blood pressure that has reached or exceeded 140/90 after the 20th week of pregnancy. In order for a doctor to diagnose a woman with this condition, however, he’ll usually rely on more than just one incidence of high blood pressure. In most cases, he'll take at least two blood pressure readings six hours apart from each other. He may take other blood pressure readings as well and test a woman’s urine for the presence of excess protein as apart of the diagnosis process.
Preeclampsia and blood pressure changes may develop over a period of time. In many cases, however, the diagnosis and the symptoms typical of preeclampsia occur suddenly. Often, women who had normal blood pressure readings before pregnancy, or even in early pregnancy, have spikes in blood pressure that range from minor to severely elevated. Additionally, they may have other symptoms of preeclampsia, including headaches, vision changes, pain in the upper abdomen, and dizziness. Sometimes a person with this condition will also deal with nausea and vomiting; more weight gain than expected; changes in urine output; and swelling of the face and hands.
In many cases, women with preeclampsia and blood pressure spikes have healthy babies and do not experience serious complications. Sometimes, however, a case of preeclampsia is so severe that a woman needs a Cesarean section to deliver her baby early. When preeclampsia is severe and not controlled well, such problems as impaired blood flow to the placenta, liver problems, and seizures may result. In some cases, the placenta may even separate from the wall of the uterus. Additionally, a woman’s risk of developing heart disease may increase because of preeclampsia and blood pressure changes.
Doctors cannot cure preeclampsia with medication. The only way to cure a woman of it is to deliver her baby. If a baby isn’t developed enough for an early delivery, doctors may prescribe medications to help in lowering the affected woman's blood pressure and improving the function of the liver. Doctors may prescribe medication to prevent seizures as well. Sometimes a woman is also placed on bed rest in order to keep her blood pressure low and help blood to flow to the placenta.