Preeclampsia rarely happens before the 20th week of pregnancy. Most cases occur after 24-26 weeks and usually towards the end of pregnancy. It generally affects about 1 in 20 pregnancies. Although less common, the condition can also develop for the first time during the first six weeks after the birth. Most people only experience mild symptoms, but it’s important to manage the condition, in case severe symptoms or complications develop. If the preeclampsia remains untreated, it can develop to eclampsia, in which the mother can experience convulsions, coma, and can even die. However, complications from preeclampsia are extremely rare if the mother attends her prenatal appointments.
Symptoms of Preeclampsia • The most common symptom and hallmark of preeclampsia is high blood pressure. This may be the first or only symptom. Blood pressure may be only minimally elevated initially, or can be dangerously high; symptoms may or may not be present. However, the degree of blood pressure elevation varies from woman to woman and also varies during the development and resolution of the disease process. There are also some women who never have significant blood pressure elevation. • The kidneys are unable to efficiently filter the blood (as they normally do). This may cause protein to be present in the urine. The first sign of excess protein is commonly seen on a urine sample obtained in the health care professional’s office. Rarely does a woman note any changes or symptoms associated with excess protein in the urine. In extreme cases affecting the kidneys, the amount of urine produced decreases greatly. • Unusual swelling is a common sign of pre-eclampsia, which can be seen as noticable swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes, have more than slight swelling in your hands, have sudden or excessive swelling of your feet or ankles • Nausea or vomiting • Shortness of breath, caused by fluid in your lungs • Rapid weight gain over a few days (more than 2 pounds a week) • Nervous system changes can include blurred vision, seeing spots, severeheadaches, convulsions, and even occasionally blindness. Any of these symptoms require immediate medical attention. • Changes that affect the liver can cause pain in the upper part of the abdomen and may be confused with indigestion or gallbladder disease. Other more subtle changes that affect the liver can affect the ability of the platelets to cause blood to clot; these changes may be seen as excessive bruising. • Changes that can affect the baby can result from problems with blood flow to the placenta, and therefore, the baby does not receive proper nutrients. As a result, the baby may not grow properly and may be smaller than expected, or worse the baby will appear sluggish or seem to have decreased activity. Call the doctor immediately if the baby’s movements decrease.