Women have been giving birth since the dawn of time, so it seems like we’d have worked out the kinks by now. But there are still some conditions that can complicate a pregnancy and delivery that we can’t predict or prevent.
Preeclampsia — high blood pressure during pregnancy — is one of those conditions.
Dr. Christopher Serrano at Serrano OBGyn in San Antonio, Texas, understands the dangers of preeclampsia and helps moms-to-be spot the warning signs that may save their life — and their baby’s life. Here’s what you need to know about this dangerous condition and how to determine if you’re at risk for it.
Even if your blood pressure has been normal your whole life, that can change when you’re carrying a baby. Things may be going along just fine until you reach week 20, and your blood pressure goes up to 140/90 or higher.
In its earliest stages, preeclampsia is asymptomatic, which is why regular prenatal care is so important. When you come in for your scheduled appointments, we always check your blood pressure so we can detect changes before they progress and cause problems.
If you ignore preeclampsia, it can become serious and lead to dire complications or death. The best way to keep you and your baby safe and alive is often to deliver the baby immediately.
Signs you have preeclampsia
Preeclampsia typically develops gradually, but it may come on suddenly in some cases. When symptoms do appear, you may notice:
- Bad headaches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blurry vision or light sensitivity
- Abdominal pain
- Less urine output
- Shortness of breath
In the office, we may detect excess protein in your urine, fewer platelets in your blood, and impaired liver function.
Are you at risk for preeclampsia?
Although any woman can develop preeclampsia, you’re more likely to get it if you:
- Have had preeclampsia before or it runs in your family
- Had hypertension before pregnancy
- Are older than 35
- Are obese
- Are having twins, triplets, or more
- Are having your first baby
- Are having a baby with a different father from your previous birth(s)
- Are African American
- Haven’t had a baby for 10 years
- Had a baby fewer than two years ago
- Have diabetes, migraines, lupus, kidney disease, or a blood clotting issue
You may also be at a higher risk for preeclampsia if you got pregnant via in vitro fertilization.
Complications of preeclampsia
Left unchecked, preeclampsia endangers the health and life of you and your baby.
Dangers to your baby
Preeclampsia can restrict your baby’s growth while in the womb because it restricts blood flow to the placenta, which can cause low birth weight.
If you have preeclampsia, we may need to deliver your baby early. Depending on how early, your baby could have underdeveloped lungs and suffer from breathing problems.
In some cases, preeclampsia causes the placenta to pull away from the inner wall of your uterus, which can cause severe bleeding and put your baby in life-threatening danger.
Dangers to you
Preeclampsia is the forerunner to eclampsia, which includes all the symptoms of preeclampsia plus seizures. If this occurs, we must deliver your baby immediately regardless of the stage of development.
Preeclampsia can lead to cardiovascular problems for the mother both during pregnancy and in the future. Another risk of preeclampsia is organ damage, and you could sustain irreparable harm to your kidneys, liver, eyes, lungs, heart, or brain.
What to do if you have preeclampsia
About 1 in 25 women experience preeclampsia during their pregnancy. If you’re one of them, Dr. Serrano advises you on exactly what to do. Treatment recommendations depend on several variables, chief among them the severity of your condition and the gestational age and development of your baby.
In some cases, we may be able to lower your blood pressure with medications, corticosteroids can improve your liver and platelet function, and anticonvulsants can prevent seizures.
Bed rest is a given if you have preeclampsia, but this can also increase your risk for getting blood clots, so we monitor you closely. Sometimes that means you need to stay in the hospital.
Dr. Serrano has successfully seen many women through high-risk pregnancies, including preeclampsia. The best way to make sure you and your baby make it through from conception to delivery without a hitch is to get excellent prenatal care all the way through with Dr. Serrano.
To schedule your prenatal appointment, call our office or book it online.