Preeclampsia: What Does It Mean?

Toke waddled to the bathroom as quickly as her swollen legs let her. She sat down on the toilet seat to pee and sighed with relief as her bladder emptied. “I can’t wait for this pregnancy to be over, all the intermittent urination will finally end”, she thought. She cleaned up and reached out to flush but with a downward glance, she noticed that her urine was foamy. She had never seen that before. She shrugged it off, flushed and went about her day.

In the evening, Toke noticed that she was having a headache and chalked it down to the stress of the day. The headache had made her leave work early, and she decided to go to bed. She woke up with a start hours later, her headache was still there and was even more severe. She also noticed that she couldn’t see clearly, not even after turning on the light. Everything was blurry. She felt fear creep down her spine and wrap itself around her stomach. She could not stop the tears and panic spread through her entire body until it settled in her racing heart. Chike, her husband was woken up by the sound of her sobs and swung into action to get her care.

Hours later, Toke walked towards the car with Chike holding her tight. The doctor had just told them all about preeclampsia. While they were still worried, they also felt more confident that everything would turn out fine. This was their first pregnancy and they knew that it would end with their bundle of joy if they followed the doctor’s advice judiciously.

Preeclampsia is the presence of hypertension and protein in the urine of a pregnant woman or a woman that has put to bed.  Especially in a previously normotensive patient. Preeclampsia usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy and it can be asymptomatic, however, it can present with symptoms as well. Some of these symptoms include:

● Persistent headache
● Abnormal swelling of the hand and face
● Sudden weight gain
● Blurry vision or loss of vision
● Upper abdominal pain (usually on the right side)
● Shortness of breath.
● Foamy urine (this can indicate the presence of protein in your urine)

Some of the symptoms like weight gain and facial swelling may be difficult to observe as they usually occur in pregnancy. It can thus go undetected and devolve to a more severe condition called eclampsia when left untreated or poorly managed. This is why a pregnant woman must attend routine ante-natal (ANC) classes at a standard facility. Check out our HyMat plans HERE for affordable access to top-notch maternal health services.

Other likely complications from preeclampsia include:

  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Premature delivery
  • Placental abruption
  • HELLP (Hemolytsis, Elevated Liver Enzymes, Low Platelet) syndrome
  • Liver or kidney dysfunction

Also, some women are at a higher risk of developing preeclampsia than others. They include women with:

  • Previous or family history of preeclampsia
  • Preexisting chronic hypertension
  • First pregnancy
  • Multiple pregnancy (Twins or more)

The first pregnancy with a new partner also carries a higher risk of preeclampsia than subsequent pregnancies with the same partner. Black women also have a higher risk of developing preeclampsia than women of other races.

In all, while preeclampsia can have devastating complications, it can be picked up easily during routine antenatal care visits. It is important also to put into practice all the advice you are given during your ANC visits.

Please share this article and help us increase awareness about preeclampsia.

By Dr.Okonkwor Oyor C.

Related Articles