Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication that can lead to high blood pressure and organ damage. If left untreated, it can be fatal for the mother or the baby.
Regarding the exact causes of preeclampsia, experts in the medical community believe the disorder begins in the placenta – the organ that provides nourishment to the fetus during pregnancy. They tend to describe the condition in two stages.
In the first stage, the originating cause leads to the placenta producing certain proteins or placental debris that enter the mother’s circulation and are believed to cause the second stage. In the second stage, the overt maternal disease occurs, which involves liver, kidney, high blood pressure, and coagulation abnormalities. The overt disease depends on:
- The health of the mother (i.e., diseases affecting the vasculature such as pre-existing genetic, metabolic, renal, and cardiovascular factors, as well as obesity)
- The action of the circulating factors (i.e., proteins, placental debris)
On the genetic side, individuals with a family history of preeclampsia as well as African-American women are statistically more likely to encounter the condition.
Mothers pregnant with twins, those with first-time pregnancies, and those with a history of renal disease, lupus, or vascular disorders tend to experience preeclampsia more often. Other conditions predisposing someone to preeclampsia include primary hypertension, obesity, and type I or type II diabetes.
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Can I prevent preeclampsia?
There are certain steps you and your medical provider can take to prevent and treat preeclampsia. One of the most important steps is accessing proper prenatal care. This is highly important for early diagnosis and effective management of the condition should it occur. In other words, it’s important not to skip any doctor visits. These appointments allow your medical provider the opportunity to perform a number of important checks, including blood pressure and urine. Your doctor should be able to diagnose any early signs of preeclampsia from these test results as well as feedback you provide about your health otherwise.
Since obesity is a definitive risk factor for developing preeclampsia, doctors should also encourage women who are overweight or obese prior to pregnancy toward achieving weight loss. Proper weight management can also deter the onset of diabetes, which itself is another risk factor for the development of preeclampsia. Your provider can help you formulate a weight loss plan if you are planning to get pregnant and are concerned about your current weight.
After diagnosis, how is preeclampsia treated?
When the baby is delivered, preeclampsia is treated by the removal of the placenta. However, if you are still early in your pregnancy, rather than placenta removal, the condition is better managed than treated.
Close follow-up and observation are key aspects of managing a preeclampsia condition. This involves frequent monitoring of the growth of the baby through ultrasound, as well as checking your blood pressure and urine. Sometimes blood pressure medications can be used that reduce the mother’s risk of stroke, but to not particularly manage the condition. Eclampsia, a seizure that can result from a severe case of preeclampsia, may be prevented with the medication magnesium sulfate.
After I deliver, am I free from further health risks?
Some potential long-term effects of developing preeclampsia during pregnancy do exist. About 1 in 6 pregnancies suffer a recurrence of preeclampsia. The condition also raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, but this risk correlates with the severity of the condition.
In some cases, preeclampsia may be diagnosed after delivery of the baby. This is referred to as postpartum preeclampsia. There is uncertainty in the medical community as to why this occurs. The timeframe for this condition can land between two days postpartum and fewer than six weeks postpartum. The symptoms and risk factors are identical to those for preeclampsia occurring prior to birth.
If you or your baby is suffering or has suffered from the effects of preeclampsia due to inadequate care or misdiagnosis, the Ohio and Kentucky medical malpractice attorneys at Crandall & Pera Law can help. We can fight to help you obtain the financial compensation you deserve at this time. To arrange a free, initial consultation about your case, call us today at 877.686.8879 or use our contact form to send us a request.