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What is preeclampsia? What causes it? What are the preventive measures and the treatment available?

Posted Nov 08 2012 5:28pm

A recent research done at the University of Michigan has found a correlation between pregnant women who snore and preeclampsia, which if it turns out to be true can help prevent preeclampsia in time, and allow the women to give birth in term, limiting the health complications for both the women and their babies in cases of preeclampsia.  It was estimated that 19 percent of the women diagnosed with having high blood pressure during pregnancy and about 11 percent of the cases of preeclampsia could be successfully treated in time, by simply determining if the woman snores or not.

Of all pregnant women studied, 25% snored, and they were found to be twice as more prone to have high blood pressure.  The continuous positive airway pressure treatment (snoring treatment) which involved sleeping with a special mask hooked to equipment, which keeps the airways open was found to lead to a decrease in the blood pressure of pregnant women.

In fact the correlation of snoring and preeclampsia was greater for those ladies who had started snoring from the onset of their pregnancy, and much lower for those who have a history of snoring.

Another study from Cleveland found a correlation between obese women who have obstructive sleep apnea, and the risk of developing preeclampsia when pregnant and the baby having health problems is high

This groundbreaking study, can make prevention and early diagnostics and treatment to be administered as early as possible in the pregnancy of women who snore or/and obese.

Preeclampsia is gestational-related hypertension, in other words high blood pressure during pregnancy.  The risks for a woman to develop preeclampsia during her pregnancy depends on whether she has had it in her previous pregnancies, if there are cases of preeclampsia in the family, whether this a first pregnancy by this partner, if the babies are more than one, or if there is an underlying illness such as chronic hypertension, diabetes, migraines, etc.

The tests to diagnose if a pregnant woman has preeclampsia includes measuring and monitoring the blood pressure during the pregnancy, and also testing the urine for Albumin (protein) contents.

Some of the most common symptoms of preeclampsia include ankle, hand, finger swelling, edema.  If left untreated, preeclampsia may cause more symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, blurring of the vision, headaches and disorientation.

If it further progresses preeclampsia can become life-threatening for the mother and baby, if it results in eclampsia or seizures and even coma, which may occur even after the birth of the baby. The sad fact is, that today hypertension-related conditions during pregnancy are the number one cause of maternal and infant deaths globally.

Preeclampsia my cause a decreased blood flow to the placenta, which limits the amount of nutrients for the fetus, and can result in an smaller baby. About 4.5 million babies are born smaller and underdeveloped each year as a result of preeclampsia.

Only in theUSA, about 10,500 babies die as a result of complication from preeclampsia.

The good news is that neonatal care has improved drastically, but the bad news is that sometimes it simply is not enough. There is research, which shows that preeclampsia may lead to serious illnesses in the child, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, learning disabilities, problems with sight and hearing, etc.

Preeclampsia happens to be the cause of one of every 5 premature births, which annually total to 13 million worldwide, and 100,000 in theUS. In addition to not being carried to their term, the babies of mothers with preeclampsia are usually smaller than the others.

The way to definitely halt preeclampsia is delivering the baby and thus minimizing the risks of abruption of the placenta, the mother bleeding out severely and even having a stroke as a result of the high blood pressure.

There are certain pharmaceuticals as well as regular monitoring, which can be provided for women with a higher risk of developing preeclampsia, or those who already have it. Depending on the severity and the particular case, a woman who is pregnant and diagnosed with preeclampsia may be asked to stay in bed for the rest of the pregnancy ( at home or at the hospital), or may be prescribed medicine for lowering blood pressure, corticosteroids for the liver, anti convulsion medications.

Approximately three percent of all pregnant women get high blood pressure during pregnancy, which is one of the four types: chronic (when the mother has hypertension before getting pregnant or in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy); Preeclampsia usually appears in the last trimester of the pregnancy, gestational diabetes or chronically induced preeclampsia. With chronic hypertension, the woman should take the necessary precautions before conceiving if possible to control the levels of her blood pressure either with medication, the appropriate diet and lifestyle, or supplements – all after a recommendation by the Doctor, of course. With preeclampsia, the doctor may ask you to come more often for checkups, so that you blood pressure is closely monitored and controlled, or that you refrain from any activities, and allow the baby to be developed well enough for the birth to be induced.

So with these new findings it may be a good idea, when  you go to the doctor, to mention about the history of pregnancy complications and premature births in your immediate family (if any), whether you are overweight or obese, and whether you snore or have started snoring after getting pregnant. All related factors need to be mentioned when visiting the doctor, to make sure timely and appropriate actions and precautions are taken to limit the possibility of preeclampsia and its early monitoring and treatment.

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