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Preeclampsia Warning Signs

Developing high blood pressure during late pregnancy may signal a condition called preeclampsia. Untreated, this condition potentially threatens both mother and child.

Fortunately, preeclampsia is easily detected during routine prenatal care visits. Close monitoring can prevent serious complications in women who develop preeclampsia and help them deliver healthy babies.

Quiz: Facts About Preeclampsia

  1. TRUE or FALSE: Developing high blood pressure during pregnancy always means you have preeclampsia.
  2. TRUE or FALSE: A woman's age affects her risk for this condition.
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Physical activity may help prevent preeclampsia.
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Women who develop preeclampsia are more likely to have high blood pressure after pregnancy.

Answers

1. FALSE. Having high blood pressure during pregnancy doesn't necessarily mean you have preeclampsia. Elevated blood pressure is only one symptom of preeclampsia. Pregnant women who notice any of the following symptoms should talk with their doctor:

  • Swelling that doesn't disappear after resting, especially in the face and hands
  • Gaining more than 5 pounds a week
  • Persistent or severe headaches that are not relieved by rest, fluids or acetaminophen
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Abdominal pain

2. TRUE. Being younger than age 20 or older than age 40 boosts the risk for preeclampsia; so does a history of chronic high blood pressure. Other risk factors include:

  • Developing preeclampsia during an earlier pregnancy
  • Having a family history of preeclampsia
  • Carrying multiples
  • Being obese
  • Carrying a first pregnancy

Preeclampsia is also more common in women who suffer from diabetes, kidney disease and lupus.

3. TRUE. Women who exercise regularly before and during pregnancy are less likely to develop either hypertension or preeclampsia while they're pregnant. Research is also ongoing about whether taking daily aspirin or eating a balanced diet with plenty of calcium, vitamin C and vitamin E may prevent preeclampsia, but study results have been mixed. Talk with your doctor about the steps you can take.

4. TRUE. Symptoms of preeclampsia usually disappear within six weeks after delivery. You should see a doctor regularly, however, since your chance of developing high blood pressure later in life is increased.