Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that affects some women in pregnancy.  The symptoms of  pre-eclampsia (PE) develop after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and often not until after 28 weeks of pregnancy. What causes pre-eclampsia?

The cause is not entirely known, but it is thought that it may be a result of the woman's immune system recognising the partner's sperm as a foreign body, and starting an immune process.

It is more common in women having their first baby, in women who have had PE in the past and in women who have a family history of PE.  PE is also more common amongst women who are carrying twins or triplets or more babies, women who have gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease.

Symptoms of pre-eclampsia

Early signs can include headaches, abdominal pain, blurred vision / seeing spots or stars, generally feeling unwell, reduced urine output, vomiting and nausea, changes in reflexes, and a sudden increase in swelling.

As well as this, the woman would have high blood rpessure.

How does pre-eclampsia affect pregnancy?

PE can affect various body systems, and the symptoms that a woman experiencs will depend on the body systems that are affected.  PE can prevents sufficient blood flow to the baby, leading to a smaller baby or a reduced amount of fluid around the baby.

PE can cause fitting, it can cause the placenta to separate off the wall of the uterus and it can contribute to bleeding after the birth of the baby.  It is a very serious condition, and we're fortunate these days to have excellent ways of recognising it.

PE can affect many of the woman's organs, such as the brain, liver, kidneys, placenta, baby, eyes, blood clotting, digestive and so on.

Treatment

There is no cure for PE other than the birth of the baby and placenta.  In most cases, the symptoms will resolve soon after birth.  However, if a woman is pre-term, then birth might being with it additional problems, so sometimes it is necessary to use certain therapies and monitoring to help the woman and baby get to term.

Monitoring

The sorts of monitoring that you can expect with PE includes blood pressure monitoring, CTGs (monitoring of baby's heart beat via a machine), blood tests, ultrasounds and urine tests.

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