The Big Threat To a Healthy Pregnancy: Preeclampsia

You have finally gotten the positive test result you have dreamed of: you are pregnant! After a nail-biting morning at your doctor's office, your home test has been confirmed, and you are now officially among the expecting...congratulations! When a well meaning friend gives you a book on the healthy pregnancy experience, you begin to read eagerly, but all too soon you are almost too frightened to even pick up the book. Why?

A new pregnancy is a wonderful gift, but at the same time it can be a nail-biting experience.  While everyone of course hopes and prays for a healthy pregnancy, the statistics are quite clear that there are quite a few who will not receive this blessing, as a matter of fact, the odds of having a healthy pregnancy go down considerably with advanced age of the mother, living situation, surroundings, and other factors.  One of the dangers that it most often commented on, yet sadly very misunderstood, is preeclampsia.  This condition is said to touch at least six percent, but quite possibly as much as eight percent, of all reported pregnancies and yearly claims more than seventy-five thousand lives.  Furthermore, it can only be detected during the monthly doctors' visits when blood pressure is checked and urine samples are taken. 

Preeclampsia may show itself through sudden spikes in blood pressure, elevated protein levels in the urine, swelling of the extremities, unexplained sudden weight gain, vision changes, and also persistent headaches. While it is possible to experience this illness during the early portion of a new pregnancy, it is much more likely to strike during the fifth or sixth month of a healthy pregnancy.  Many a woman who is diagnosed with this illness may have little or no warning, since many of the symptoms mimic some of the discomforts of the progressing pregnancy.  Causes for this disease have not yet been completely discovered, although it is thought that insufficient blood flow to the uterus may be at the top of the list for this condition.  Other contributing factors are the maternal age, a severe calcium deficiency, pre-existing conditions that affect the blood pressure, as well as a high body fat content.  The latter will also affect a variety of other disorders during pregnancy, and consistent medical care and prenatal visits are essential for the health of mother and child!

Of course, any healthy pregnancy may be marred by the sudden onset of this illness, and it is therefore important to realize that these symptoms call for immediate medical attention. Among the risks of this disease is the increased likelihood of a stroke, kidney and liver impairment, as well as premature birth. If the condition is detected late in an otherwise healthy pregnancy, labor is usually induced and the mother will be carefully observed to exclude any risks.  If it evidences itself earlier in the pregnancy, however, and an induction of labor is not a choice, then the attending physician quite often will prescribe complete bed rest, perhaps medication, and in severe cases hospitalization to preserve the health and life of the mother to be as well as the unborn child. It is important to note that the condition in and of itself cannot only be managed but not reversed.  Conversely, the only way to reverse any symptoms is by the birth of the child. It is true that some cases of preeclampsia occur up to two weeks after birth, but fortunately at that time medication and more aggressive treatments may be administered that will help to reverse any health problems for the mother.

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