Ever seen a pregnant woman convulsing? Think Pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a leading cause of death to mothers and children across the world. According to the World Health Organization, WHO, around 50, 000 to 75, 000 women every year due to this condition. It is worse when it is not discovered early.
What is Pre-Eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia is a disorder of pregnancy characterized by the onset of high blood pressure and often a significant amount of protein in the urine (Source WIkipedia)
Pre-eclampsia is the name given to the form of hypertension that develops in a pregnant woman, who previously has not had any record of hypertension, as well as the identification of a significant amount of protein in her urine (at least 300 mg in 24hrs).
This condition has to be noticed after the 20th week of pregnancy and also resolve completely by the sixth week after delivery for it to be known as pre-eclampsia.
What Causes Pre-eclampsia
The cause of pre-eclampsia can be quite complex to explain. But, just understand that, when a woman is pregnant, there is a connection between the woman and her baby known as the Placenta. The work of this placenta is to deliver food & oxygen to the baby, and also remove toxic things that can kill the baby. You should understand that the placenta is loyal to the baby and not the mother. Now, for some reason, the placenta starts having resistance whenever it wants to supply blood carrying food & oxygen to the baby.
What does it do when this happens?
It uses more force to push this vital nutrient to the baby, thereby increasing the blood pressure of the woman. However, this does not concern the placenta, because the baby must eat, and it must do its job.
Hence, the mother’s Blood pressure would continue to rise until a point would come when it would be too much for the body, and this is when it affects the brain, resulting in convulsion. When this happens, it is called Eclampsia. This can kill the mother.
Symptoms of Pre-eclampsia (How to know)
The classic symptom of pre-eclampsia are
- Headache: usually at the front of the head.
- Visual disturbance: you’d be having problems with seeing.
- Pain: just around the area above your umbilicus.
However, many women having this condition might not show any of these symptoms. These are those who could move straight to Eclampsia without detection. This is why Antenatal care is essential, so as to monitor you closely.
Risk Factors for Pre-eclampsia
Things that can make a woman develop this condition includes;
- First pregnancy: it is more commonly noticed in women during their first pregnancy.
- Women who have had more than one pregnancy but, who had recorded pre-eclampsia in any of those previous pregnancies.
- Women who have stayed ten years or more since having their last baby.
- Age: is an important factor. It is also seen commonly in those who are above the age of 40 years.
- Obesity: last time we told you that obesity is a risk factor for a lot of medical conditions. This is one of them. Is it noticed in those who are obese with a body mass index of 35 or more?
- Genetics: this has also been known to run In families. Anyone who has a mother or sister who had the condition should be extra careful during pregnancy.
- Multiple pregnancies: Those carrying twin or more babies also have a higher risk of developing this condition.
- Finally, those with some previous underlying medical conditions: such as hypertension, renal disease, diabetes, or antiphospholipid antibodies can also develop this.
Treatment for Pre-eclampsia
Any woman having any of the above signs is to be rushed to the hospital immediately. It is a very serious emergency.
You should know that there is no exact cure for this condition. The only solution, just like in cases of Ectopic Pregnancy, is to end the pregnancy. This involves
- Delivering the baby (and placenta) if the baby is close to term & can survive & if there are newborn facilities for pre-term infants at the hospital, like an Incubator.
- If the baby is a few days closer, they can be managed using Magnesium Sulphate to minimize risks to the mother while the baby develops as much as possible. Note that this MUST be done only while the mother is on admission at the hospital. It should never be tried at home unless you want two dead bodies on your hands.
- Abortion: If the condition occurs very early like below 34 weeks in pregnancy, especially in our environment, the pregnancy would have to be ended (aborted), so as to save the mother’s life.
The main principles of treatment in pre-eclampsia are:
• early recognition of the condition and how serious it is.
• admission to hospital and investigation. use of antihypertensive and anticonvulsant medications to manage BP and prevent the development of convulsions.
• well-timed delivery to prevent serious complications to mother and/or child.
• counseling mother and father as well as follow-up after birth.
Prevention of Pre-Eclampsia
The most efficient method to prevent complications of Pre-Eclampsia and save the life of both mother and child is to register for antenatal care in a competent facility near you where your blood pressure would be monitored and your urine would be collected for testing.
Husbands, remember, Pre-Eclampsia is a real killer. Save the life of your wife (mother) & your child today!