While only 5% of all pregnant women experience preeclampsia, it’s a very serious diagnosis and puts you and you baby at high risk. Preeclampsia typically comes on after Week 20 of the pregnancy, and symptoms include:
- Extreme headaches
- Severe swelling in the extremities and face (called edema)
- Vision changes
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of anxiety
- Sudden weight gain beyond the norm for pregnancy
Preeclampsia also involves high protein levels in the urine, high blood pressure and hyperreflexia (the knee/jerk reaction is heightened). If the condition continues undiagnosed, and a woman goes into full eclampsia (also called toxemia), it causes seizures, convulsions and comas – and is the leading cause of mother and fetal mortality worldwide.
Read, What Every Woman Needs to Know About…Preeclampsia, for more specifics.
It’s Important to Know the Risk Factors
There are notable risk factors for preeclampsia and if you know you are at risk, you’re more likely to pay attention to the symptoms listed above.
It’s your first pregnancy
By and large, preeclampsia happens most often in first-time pregnancies. This is why we ask that you call us anytime you don’t feel comfortable about presenting symptoms. We always want to err on the safe side.
You’ve had preeclampsia before
If your previous pregnancy went preeclamptic, your healthcare professional is on high alert. While the majority of preeclampsia occurs in first-time pregnancies, women who’ve had preeclampsia in the past are seven-times more likely to have it again in successive pregnancies.
With women who’ve had preeclampsia in the past, African-American women and other non-white women are more likely to experience it again than white women.
You are obese
Obese women are more likely to have preeclampsia as well. This is one of the reasons why there different guidelines regarding pregnancy weight gain for women whose BMI puts them into the severely overweight or obese categories.
They run in your family
Women whose mothers have had preeclampsia are at higher risk. According to the World Health Organization, 20% to 40% of women whose mothers had preeclampsia will have it as well.
You’re 40-years old or more
Women 40-years old and older are more prone to pre-eclampsia, one of the reasons why “advanced maternal age” automatically places you in the high-risk pregnancy bracket.
Pregnant with multiples
Similarly, being pregnant with twins or higher-order multiples (triplets on up) also increases your preeclampsia risk.
Pre-existing Medical Conditions Can Also Increase Your Chances
There are pre-existing medical conditions that also make you more susceptible to developing preeclampsia. Those include:
- A history of migraines
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- Gum disease
- Sickle cell disease
- Gestational diabetes
- Urinary tract infections
It’s important to reiterate that preeclampsia is very rare. However, it’s also important to be aware of both the risk factors and the symptoms, so you can let your prenatal healthcare provider know at the first sign something may be amiss.
If you feel you are at high risk for preeclampsia, work with an OB/GYN who has experience monitoring and caring for women with high-risk pregnancies. Contact Overlake to schedule a consultation and meet with our exceptional team of physicians and midwives. We work closely with our patients to ensure the most positive outcomes possible.