Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia

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Each year worldwide, over 75,000 women will not survive to celebrate their next birthday, due to a poorly understood and the life-threatening condition of pregnancy and the postpartum period called preeclampsia.
Frighteningly easy to mistake for the common complaints of pregnancy, the early symptoms of weight gain, water retention, and fatigue left undiagnosed or untreated can quickly progress to raised blood pressure, headaches, nausea and
vomiting, vision disturbances, impaired kidney and liver function, blood clotting problems, fluid retention in the lungs, seizures and even death.
Although preeclampsia affects only 5-8% of all pregnancies worldwide and can be readily diagnosed through routine blood pressure and urine protein measurements after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it accounts for 12% of all maternal deaths. It is also responsible for an estimated 4 million preterm births, and 500,000 infant deaths each year.
The causes of preeclampsia are not yet known, however, research indicates that the physical changes during pregnancy may affect blood vessel development negatively in some women, resulting in reduction of blood flow to all the organs
of the body, as well as the placenta and baby.
African American women are particularly at risk for this disease, current research indicates that they are at a greater risk to develop hypertension during pregnancy, and 3-4 times more likely than Caucasians to die of preeclampsia.
Other identified risk factors for preeclampsia include;
• Previous history of preeclampsia
• Family history of preeclampsia (mother, sister, grandmother or aunt)
• History of high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or organ transplant
• First-time pregnancy
• Multiple gestations (1 in 3 pregnancies of twins or multiples)
• Over 40, or under 18 years of age
• Obesity
• Sickle-cell disease
• Lupus or other autoimmune disorders
Because medications and other interventions can be helpful in managing the symptoms of preeclampsia, and maintaining the health of both mother and baby, preeclampsia should not be left untreated. Access to health care, early diagnosis through routine healthcare visits and an awareness of the identified risk factors of preeclampsia are the key to preventing unnecessary loss of our mothers and daughters from this condition.

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