From a medical point of view, the pre-eclampsia is associated with the late gestosis, as it only in the second half of pregnancy – and in most cases just in the last trimester of pregnancy – shows.
Pre-eclampsia – What is it?
Preeclampsia is one of the pregnancy-related diseases ( gestosis – new term: pregnancy-induced hypertension)., Which shows only very late in the course of pregnancy.
Its guiding symptoms consist of increased blood pressure (hypertension), increased protein excretion in the urine (proteinuria) and increased water retention in the tissues (edema).
In screening for pregnancy, the search for previously hidden pre-eclampsia symptoms plays an essential role – measuring blood pressure and a urine test are among the standard tests that take place at each check-up appointment.
Untreated pre-eclampsia can lead to life-threatening complications (eclampsia, HELLP syndrome ) and developmental abnormalities in the child.
Causes of preeclampsia
The causes of preeclampsia have not been fully explored, as well as other forms of gestosis. In the past, doctors assumed that it was a “pregnancy poisoning,” which, however, according to the current state of research, no longer tenable.
Possible reasons could be an overload of the maternal body due to the pregnancy, but also malnutrition or malnutrition of the mother. The medical research also discusses the influence of so-called angiogenesis factors, which are formed by the placenta – these are substances that control the growth of the placenta (the mothering cake) and thus ensure the care of the baby.
Recent studies have shown that in women who develop pre-eclampsia, the interaction of these factors is out of balance, which in the future may also be of importance for the early detection of the disease.
Three main medical symptoms: high blood pressure, protein in the urine, edema
Important: Edema or elevated blood pressure alone is not necessarily an indication of pre-eclampsia. Water retention accounts for about 80 percent of all pregnant women – in most cases, they are not a sign of illness, but a normal side effect of pregnancy.
About ten percent of all pregnant women suffer temporarily or permanently from high blood pressure, which, however, justifies a particularly close-meshed medical monitoring in the context of pregnancy. The common occurrence of high blood pressure and proteinuria is crucial for the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia.
Complaints and complications
In mild forms of the disease, the affected women often subjectively feel no symptoms or interpret these as normal pregnancy symptoms. In severe cases, the following symptoms may occur:
- Sudden significant weight gain of more than one kilogram per week
- A headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting
- Impaired vision and photosensitivity
- Restlessness, confusion, drowsiness
- Seizures that can lead to come in the worst case (transition of preeclampsia into fully developed eclampsia)
- Pain in the right upper abdomen as a possible sign that the pregnant woman develops a HELLP syndrome.
Such complaints indicate a severe course of the disease and the immediate danger of complications. Potentially life-threatening complications include eclampsia, which manifests itself in neurological disorders and cramps, and HELLP syndrome.
The latter is one of the most severe complications of pregnancy, which, however, does not always develop from a pre-eclampsia, but in part also as an independent clinical picture. In both cases, the child is usually released by an emergency Caesarean section.
The HELLP syndrome also causes coagulation disorders.
Possible effects of preeclampsia on the mother and the baby
The disease potentially affects various organs. Heart, circulatory and central nervous system reacts to the increased blood pressure, a very rapid increase in blood pressure may cause brain bleeding. Kidney and liver can no longer fully fulfill their metabolic and excretory functions.
In mild cases, the result is edema, in more severe cases, it can lead to accumulation of water in the abdominal cavity, pericardium or the lungs. The blood clotting may be disturbed.
For the baby, pre-eclampsia is particularly dangerous if it is relatively early in pregnancy, as it may interfere with the placenta’s function, which may lead to a lack of care, growth retardation or, in the worst case, a child’s death. In neonates whose mothers have suffered from pre-eclampsia, certain disorders of the blood picture are more common but usually treat well.
Risk factors and frequency of the disease
Although the causes of the disease have not yet been definitively clarified, some risk factors can be named. These include:
- Hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease that existed before the onset of pregnancy. Physicians also speak here of a graft preeclampsia grafting on such a pre-existing disease
- strong overweight or underweight
- Multiple pregnancies
- Preeclampsia in previous pregnancies
- very early or very late pregnancies
- family disposition
How is preeclampsia treated?
A causal therapy of preeclampsia does not exist so far – it is therefore about the treatment of the symptoms and therefore, to prevent serious illnesses and complications. In mild cases, the doctor of the pregnant woman will prescribe protection and physical rest, in part bed rest.
Also important is a healthy, balanced and abundant diet that should contain enough protein and salt. On salt-reduced diet and dehydrating teas, the affected women should completely abstain until the end of their pregnancy.
Are there preventive measures?
The disease can hardly be effectively prevented. It is essential that pregnant women regularly undergo the check-ups so that a pre-eclampsia can be detected early and their symptoms can be treated. Some doctors recommend the additional intake of 450 milligrams of magnesium per day during pregnancy and lactation.
- Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy disorder that occurs in the second half of pregnancy.
- Her leading medical symptoms are high blood pressure, protein in the urine and water retention on the face and hands and feet.
- Preeclampsia is usually well controlled by rest, protection and the treatment of the symptoms.
- In the context of prenatal care, the earliest possible diagnosis of the disease, therefore, plays an essential role.
- Even gestosis, such as HELLP syndrome, can still occur in the puerperium.
- In case of unclear discomfort, consult the doctor or midwife immediately, especially the HELLP syndrome often has a little forerunner.