Preeclampsia and Eclampsia: Understanding the Difference

Posted On: November 1, 2016 By CIW

What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition that is specific to women’s pregnancy. Doctors diagnose preeclampsia if a pregnant woman’s blood pressure is elevated after 20 weeks of gestation. New guidelines set forth by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists inform that high levels of protein in urine or proteinuria is not required to diagnose preeclampsia.

How is preeclampsia diagnosed?

Before the new guidelines, doctors would test for preeclampsia through blood pressure tests and urine tests. Preeclampsia is now diagnosed if a woman has consistently high blood pressure that advanced during pregnancy. Other ways of diagnosing preeclampsia during the post-partum period include elevated levels of protein in the urine or decreased blood platelets, complications with the liver or kidneys, fluid in the lungs, seizures, or visual disturbances.

Preeclampsia Symptoms & Outcomes

Common symptoms associated with preeclampsia are stomach pain, headaches, trouble breathing, nausea, confusion, visual distractions, and increased anxiety. Preeclampsia impacts 5 to 8 percent of all births in the U.S. every year. Fortunately, most women that suffer from preeclampsia deliver healthy babies and fully recover from the condition. However, there are some cases where women experience complications that may be life-threatening to both the mother and baby.

How is preeclampsia treated?

Gestational age, the health of the baby, and overall health and age of the mother determine how a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist manages preeclampsia. Precise and consistent assessment is necessary to analyze how the disease is developing. In most cases, doctors will opt to deliver the baby around 37 weeks. For most women, preeclampsia is resolved once the baby is healthy and delivered.

What is eclampsia?

Eclampsia is a serious complication of preeclampsia, which is determined if one or more seizures occur during or after pregnancy. Eclampsia is a rare condition, and it is also treatable with proper medical intervention. If left untreated, eclampsia can lead to further seizures, which may result in brain damage, coma, or life-threatening pregnancy complications.

Preeclampsia, by original definition, was the disorder preceding eclampsia. However, eclamptic seizures are only one of many potential complications.

How is eclampsia treated?

To prevent eclampsia and treat severe preeclampsia, a treatment of magnesium sulfate is given intravenously. If an eclamptic seizure occurs, magnesium treatments may last up to two days. This treatment should only be performed by a skilled doctor with appropriate facilities since overdoses can occur.

Understanding the difference between preeclampsia and eclampsia may be troublesome. However, if you find yourself with preeclampsia, you can rest assured that you and your baby will be monitored as carefully as possible for a positive pregnancy outcome.

For more information regarding Preeclampsia and Eclampsia or any other service, visit our FAQ page or blog.

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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