Preeclampsia is a dangerous combination of high blood pressure and too much protein in the urine that can happen in pregnant women after their 20th week of pregnancy. It can range from mild to severe, and often develops suddenly.
Preeclampsia affects 5 to 8% of pregnant women and their unborn children. It is the leading cause of maternal death worldwide. If not treated, preeclampsia can worsen into eclampsia, a condition that causes seizures and can be fatal. Unfortunately, preeclampsia increases the risk of fetal death. The sooner you develop preeclampsia during your pregnancy, the higher the risk.
The cure for preeclampsia is for the baby to be delivered. If it is too early for the baby to be delivered, your doctor will work with you to reduce symptoms and complications until you can deliver safely.
No one knows what causes preeclampsia. However, some women have a higher risk of developing it. Some research suggests preeclampsia may be an autoimmune disorder. Your risk may be greater if:
If you have any symptoms of preeclampsia, you should see your doctor immediately. Women often find out they have preeclampsia during a routine prenatal checkup that includes a urine test and blood pressure check.
As you get closer to your delivery date, your doctor may do a nonstress test to check your baby's heart rate and make sure your baby is getting enough oxygen.
If you have a mild case of preeclampsia, your doctor may recommend bed rest. You should lie on your left side, so the weight of the baby will not press against important blood vessels. Drink a lot of water to help you urinate and get rid of excess fluids.
Your doctor may want to monitor your blood pressure and urine every couple of days. The goal is to manage your symptoms until at least 36 weeks in your pregnancy, when the baby may be safely delivered.
If you have severe preeclampsia, it may not be possible to wait that long. Your doctor may admit you to the hospital, where you will receive drugs to induce labor, or have a Cesarean section (C-section).
Your doctor may prescribe the following drugs intravenously (IV):
If you have preeclampsia, you should be under the care of an obstetrician. DO NOT try to self-treat preeclampsia with complementary and alternative therapies (CAM). If you want to use CAM therapies along with conventional medical treatment, your obstetrician should supervise all treatment. Some of the more common therapies are described below.
Some supplements may help prevent preeclampsia. But they do not help once you have the condition. Others, intended to reduce symptoms once you have the condition, show mixed results in scientific studies. If you are pregnant, do not take anything without your obstetrician's approval. All supplements have side effects. And some may not be safe for women with certain medical conditions.
Treatments for preeclampsia:
These treatments require close supervision by a doctor.
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, it is important to work with your doctor to diagnose your problem before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, and teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Note: DO NOT use these herbs without your doctor's supervision. All herbs have side effects. And some may not be safe for pregnant women or women with certain medical conditions.
No studies have found any herbs effective for preeclampsia. Herbs that have traditionally been used to treat mild high blood pressure in pregnancy include:
May help lower blood pressure and increase circulation.
Your doctor will monitor you carefully for the first few days after you have delivered your baby. You may need to stay in the hospital for several days to weeks, depending on the severity of the preeclampsia. You should have checkups at least every 2 weeks for the first several months after leaving the hospital. Preeclampsia is a significant risk factor for long-term morbidity, such as chronic hypertension and hospitalizations later in life.
If you wear rings, take them off as soon as symptoms begin. Swollen fingers can make it difficult or even impossible to remove rings, and they may begin to cut off circulation in your fingers.
Symptoms of preeclampsia can appear gradually and suddenly get worse, or you may not have any visible symptoms at all. The best way to prevent any complications from preeclampsia is to get regular prenatal care. Your doctor can provide immediate treatment.
Preeclampsia that happens early in your pregnancy, and preeclampsia that is severe, may increase your risk of heart disease. Your doctor may recommend more frequent screening for heart disease risk factors.
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Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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