Three Signs & Symptoms of Preeclampsia

Posted On: November 18, 2015 By Nathan D. Fox, MD

Three Signs & Symptoms of Preeclampsia

1. Preeclampsia during Pregnancy  

Preeclampsia is actually a condition that develops over the course of pregnancy. If a woman had high blood pressure early on in her pregnancy, we would not consider her as having preeclampsia. We would consider her as having a diagnosis of high blood pressure or hypertension. Generally, our cut off for this diagnosis is 20 weeks. The later it gets in pregnancy, the more likely it is to be preeclampsia. If preeclampsia is going to develop, it will develop in the third trimester. Often, the most common time for preeclampsia diagnosis is at the very end of pregnancy, around the time of delivery, or even after delivery, which can also occur.

The earlier preeclampsia develops, the worse it tends to be. The more severe the condition is, the more likely it is that we will need to intervene. The milder the condition, the more likely it is that we will be able to just monitor it.

2. High Blood Pressure

Typically, you have no symptoms when your blood pressure is elevated, so it’s very difficult for someone to say, “Hey, I feel like my blood pressure is high.” So, that’s why we check it in our office routinely. All prenatal care providers check blood pressure in their offices routinely. High blood pressure is one main symptom of preeclampsia.

3. Other Symptoms to Address

The problem with other symptoms of preeclampsia, in addition to hypertension, is they overlap with a lot of the normal symptoms of pregnancy. These include symptoms like headaches and swelling of the feet and ankles. These are things that happen to many, many pregnant women in normal circumstances. If a mother calls up and says she has a lot of swelling, it’s very difficult to tell over the phone whether it really means anything serious. In that case, we will bring them into the office, check their blood pressure and urine, and make an assessment if this represents anything more than normal pregnancy changes.

Sometimes other symptoms can include pain in the abdomen, feeling weak, or feeling nauseous. But again, these are symptoms that many pregnant women get routinely. The other symptom is something called scotomata or seeing spots and blurry vision. This is why it’s so important to get examined for the symptoms of preeclampsia – because for most people that have it, it’s silent. Many women don’t know they have it until they’ve been examined. (This is part of the reason we recommend routine prenatal visits).

Getting examined for the symptoms of preeclampsia is important because the only known cure is the delivery of the baby and placenta. There’s no medication doctors can give the patient that cures the disease. When diagnosed with preeclampsia, the best thing a woman can do for herself and her baby is be closely watched by an experienced physician.

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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