Preeclampsia, which usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, is a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by swelling, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine. Preeclampsia affects about 5 percent of pregnancies in the US. Without treatment, preeclampsia can be fatal.
If you’re diagnosed with preeclampsia, Dignity Health has the experience and technology you need. St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and Chandler Regional Medical Center provide high-risk pregnancy care for preeclampsia in Arizona.
Causes of Preeclampsia
The exact cause of preeclampsia is not clear, but there are many known risk factors. Factors that increase a woman's risk of preeclampsia include:
- Age 40
- Multiple gestation
- First time pregnancy
- Previous history of preeclampsia
- History of high blood pressure or kidney disease
- History of diabetes, lupus, or blood clotting disorders
Because there is no foolproof way to prevent preeclampsia, it’s important to know your risk factors and do what you can to control them. For example, if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, start by following your treatment plan before and during pregnancy. That includes any lifestyle changes and medications your doctor prescribes.
Symptoms of Preeclampsia
Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- Swelling in the hands and face
- High blood pressure (blood pressure greater than 140/90, especially in women who usually have normal blood pressure — less than 120/80)
- Too much protein in the urine
- Upper abdominal pain
- Blurred vision, light sensitivity, or temporary loss of vision
Treatment of Preeclampsia at Dignity Health
Because women without any risk factors can develop preeclampsia, health care providers carefully monitor the blood pressure and urine of all pregnant women. The only cure for preeclampsia is birth, so doctors carefully weigh the risks of continuing the pregnancy against the risks of delivery.
If a woman develops symptoms of preeclampsia at or after 37 weeks of pregnancy, her doctor will probably recommend inducing labor and birth. If the woman is not yet to 37 weeks of pregnancy, health care providers will try to give the baby extra time to develop in the womb.
For mild preeclampsia, providers will monitor the mother’s health more frequently than usual for signs of decline. Women with moderate to severe preeclampsia are admitted to the hospital for careful monitoring around the clock.
Medical treatment may include intravenous fluids, medication to prevent seizures and control blood pressure, and steroid injections to speed up the baby’s lung development. If the mother’s health is at risk, the doctor will recommend immediate delivery, even if the baby is premature. The symptoms of preeclampsia go away within six weeks of giving birth.
Dignity Health provides specialized testing, care, and monitoring for preeclampsia in Arizona.