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Preeclampsia Definition - Meaning, Symptom and Treatment

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preeclampsia definition

Preeclampsia Definition -  Meaning, Symptom and Treatment

What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is an increase in blood pressure and excess protein in the urine that occurs after more than 20 weeks of pregnancy.

If not treated immediately, preeclampsia can cause complications that are dangerous for the mother and fetus.

One factor that can increase the risk of preeclampsia is the age of the pregnant woman who is under 20 years or more than 40 years. 

This condition needs to be treated immediately to prevent complications or the development of eclampsia, which can threaten the lives of the pregnant mother and fetus.

Preeclampsia Complications

Untreated preeclampsia can cause complications in pregnant women, such as:
  • Eclampsia
  • Placental abruption
  • Organ damage, such as pulmonary edema, kidney failure, and liver failure
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • HELLP syndrome
Apart from the mother, the fetus can also experience several complications, such as:
  • Stunted fetal growth
  • Premature birth
  • Born with low birth weight
  • Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (NRDS)

Preeclampsia Symptoms

The main symptoms of preeclampsia are high blood pressure (hypertension) and the presence of protein in the urine (proteinuria). These symptoms can generally be detected during routine pregnancy checks.

Other common symptoms of preeclampsia are:
  • Severe headaches
  • Vision problems, such as blurred vision or sensitivity to light
  • Pain in the pit of the stomach or upper right abdomen
  • Dizziness and weakness
  • Hard to breathe
  • The frequency of urination and urine volume decreases.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling in the legs, hands, face, and several other parts of the body
  • Sudden weight gain

Causes of Preeclampsia

The cause of preeclampsia is still not known for sure. However, this condition is thought to occur due to abnormalities in the development and function of the placenta, which is the organ that functions to distribute blood and nutrients to the fetus.

This disorder causes blood vessels to narrow, and a pregnant woman's body reacts differently to hormonal changes. As a result, problems occur in pregnant women and fetuses.

Although the cause is not yet known, several factors are thought to trigger preeclampsia, such as:
  • Previous history of preeclampsia
  • Family history of preeclampsia
  • First pregnancy
  • Subsequent pregnancy after a gap of less than two years or more than ten years
  • Pregnant at the age of less than 20 years or more than 40 years
  • Pregnant with twins
  • Obesity during pregnancy
  • The current pregnancy is the result of the IVF method (in vitro fertilization)

When to see a doctor

Immediately consult a doctor if you experience the symptoms of preeclampsia mentioned previously. Examination and treatment need to be carried out immediately to prevent complications and prevent eclampsia from developing.

In a normal pregnancy, the routine check-up schedule for a doctor is as follows:
  • Weeks 4 to 28: once a month
  • Weeks 28 to 36: once every two weeks
  • Weeks 36 to 40: once a week
Pregnant women who are diagnosed with preeclampsia are advised to go to the doctor for more frequent pregnancy checks. This needs to be done so that doctors can monitor the condition of the mother and fetus.

Routine examinations also need to be carried out if pregnant women have conditions that can increase the risk of preeclampsia, such as hypertension in pregnancy, or have experienced preeclampsia before.

Preeclampsia Diagnosis

The doctor will ask questions about the complaints experienced and the medical history of the pregnant woman and her family.

Next, the doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination, including blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, body temperature, swelling of the legs, feet, and hands, as well as the condition of the womb.

If a pregnant woman's blood pressure is more than 140/90 mmHg on two examinations 4 hours apart, the doctor will carry out supporting examinations to confirm the diagnosis of preeclampsia. The inspection includes:
  • A urine test to determine the protein level in the urine
  • Blood tests to check liver, kidney function, and blood platelet count
  • Ultrasonography (USG) to see fetal growth
  • Doppler ultrasound to measure the efficiency of blood flow to the placenta
  • Nonstress test (NST) with cardiotocography or CTG, to measure the fetus' heart rate as it moves in the womb

Preeclampsia Treatment

Preeclampsia can be resolved if the fetus is born or by treating the symptoms experienced by the pregnant woman until she is ready to give birth. Some treatments that can be done are:

1. Administering medications

Several drugs that can be prescribed to treat preeclampsia are:
  • Antihypertensives, such as methyldopa or nicardipine (if there are no other options), to lower blood pressure
  • Corticosteroids, to speed up fetal lung development
  • MgSO4, to prevent complications of seizures in pregnant women

2. Postnatal care

After giving birth, monitoring the condition of the mother and baby still needs to be done. Generally, patients need to be hospitalized several days after giving birth. 

Patients also need to take antihypertensive medication prescribed by the doctor and carry out routine control for six weeks after giving birth.

Preeclampsia Prevention

There is no specific way to prevent preeclampsia. However, there are several efforts that expectant mothers and pregnant women can take to reduce the risk of preeclampsia, such as:
  • Carry out routine checks during pregnancy.
  • Control blood pressure and blood sugar if you suffer from hypertension and diabetes.
  • Maintain ideal body weight before and during pregnancy.
  • Consume complete and balanced nutritious food.
  • Limit consumption of foods high in salt.
  • Exercise regularly, both before and during pregnancy.
  • Do not smoke, and do not consume alcoholic drinks.
  • According to the doctor, pregnant women should take vitamin and mineral supplements.

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