If you’re sick of having your blood pressure taken constantly, know that it’s for good reason. Your MD is likely checking for preeclampsia – a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, kidney damage, and LOTS of other problems. Preeclampsia is considered a life-threatening condition that impacts about 5% of pregnant women in the US. What makes it so scary is that you may not even experience any symptoms, but your doctor should be screening you for it at your prenatal visits.
Preeclampsia commonly starts in the last trimester, but it can happen at any time later in pregnancy, even during labor, or up to six weeks following delivery. It can become severe quickly or progress slowly. Left untreated, it can lead to dangerous health problems for you and your baby. Basically the gist is that preeclampsia causes the blood vessels to constrict, resulting in high blood pressure and a reduced blood flow that can affect organs in the body, ie the liver, kidneys, and brain. These changes cause small blood vessels to “leak” fluid into tissues, which can result in swelling. When these tiny blood vessels in the kidneys leak, protein from the bloodstream spills into urine. Bottom line is it’s dangerous.
Most women who get preeclampsia develop it near their due date and are TOTALLY FINE. But the earlier you develop the condition, and the more severe it is, the greater the risk is for you and your babe, because preeclampsia raises the chance of serious complications. Not to stress it, but that’s why some women may need to deliver early if the condition is severe or getting worse.
Preeclampsia symptoms are hard to note, but if you’re experiencing any of the below symptoms, call you doctor asap:
- Unusual swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes
- Significant swelling in your hands
- Sudden or excessive swelling of your feet or ankles
- If you’re experiencing severe water retention