A woman’s prenatal appointments generally start off all the same. Your carer will weigh you, ask you for a urine sample and take your blood pressure. For most women these things are routine and the results of them are never discussed. However occasionally they can forewarn your doctor or midwife that there might be a problem starting in your pregnancy.
If a woman’s blood pressure starts rising it will generally start in the third trimester, although some women experience it in the second. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can be an early sign that a woman has or is getting preeclampsia during her pregnancy. Another sign that can indicate pre-clampsia is protein in the urine.
There are still a lot of questions in the medical community regarding how and why preeclampsia starts. The best explanation seems to involve the placenta, not growing the appropriate blood vessels through the uterine wall to help sustain the pregnancy. In addition to causing the high blood pressure, it can lead to blood supply problems in your unborn baby, as well as liver and kidney problems in the mother-to-be.
Preeclampsia only occurs in about 5% of pregnancies, most of them being the first pregnancies for the mom-to-be. Pre-eclampsia can begin gradually or come on suddenly and can range from mild to severe. At its worst pre-eclampsia can cause death or serious injury to both mother and the baby. Sometimes it is necessary for the doctor or midwife to deliver a baby prematurely, in order to save both of your lives.
High blood pressure alone does not mean that you have or will have preeclampsia. There are many other signs that your provider will be looking throughout your pregnancy. These include an elevated level of protein in the urine, swelling of the hands, feet or face, sudden weight gain and blood clotting. Signs of severe preeclampsia include severe headaches or vision problems, breathing problems, abdominal pain, or a reduction in the need to urinate.
Depending on the severity of a woman’s pre-eclampsia it may be treatable with medication to prevent seizures or with high blood pressure medication. Delivery of the baby, whether early or at term will also lead to the preeclampsia going away.
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