- May 5, 2020
- Rai Cornell
- Posted in Resources
"We're expecting!" is among the most exciting and exhilarating announcements a couple will ever make. For first time parents, pregnancy plunges them into a new adventure full of twists and turns which they've never had reason to think about. Not the least of which is an expanded vocabulary of medical words – like preeclampsia.
As you're embarking on this journey of new motherhood, information is your best friend. The more you know, the better care you can take of yourself and your growing baby.
As you move through each trimester, make sure you know what to expect, what to watch out for, and which screenings to complete to maximize your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
What Is Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and baby. Preeclampsia is a complication that causes high blood pressure and potential damage to organs like the liver and kidneys. High blood pressure is dangerous at any time, but especially so during pregnancy.
Occurring in 5-8% of all pregnancies, preeclampsia can affect all women, even those who have had healthy blood pressure pre-pregnancy. The condition presents most often after the 20-week mark.
There are different types of the condition – early-onset and late-onset. Early-onset preeclampsia occurs before the 34th week of pregnancy, whereas late-onset happens after the 34th week. Early-onset preeclampsia is defined as preeclampsia that results in the delivery of the baby before 34 weeks’ gestation and can be more severe than the later, more common form of preeclampsia.
Doctors recommend regular prenatal health screenings to detect preeclampsia as early as possible. And with good reason. Undiagnosed and untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby. In worst-case scenarios, it can even be fatal.
Who Is At Risk?
Preeclampsia can occur in any pregnancy, to any woman, at any time. Although preeclampsia can affect any mother-to-be, there are certain risk factors that may increase the possibility, including:
- A history of preeclampsia in your family
- Carrying twins, triplets, or other multiples
- First pregnancy
- Having high blood pressure before becoming pregnant
- Chronic health conditions like diabetes or kidney disease
- Being a young mother or over the age of 40
Be sure to talk with your doctor about your risk, particularly if any of these common risk factors apply to you.
What Are the Symptoms?
Part of what makes preeclampsia dangerous is that some of the symptoms can also occur in a normal pregnancy, like weight gain and swelling of the hands and feet.
Other signs include:
- Blurred vision
- Abdominal pain
- Fluid in the lungs
Preeclampsia can show up quickly and may even present without outward symptoms. Because the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia are similar to common pregnancy ailments, it can often go undiagnosed. That is why it is so important to have a screening tool early in your pregnancy to alert you and your doctor if you are in fact found to be at high risk of developing preeclampsia.
During an exam, your doctor may check your blood pressure, protein levels in your urine, decreased blood platelet levels, and a change in liver function. If you suspect you may be experiencing symptoms of preeclampsia, it's vital to err on the side of caution and see your doctor in a timely manner.
How Can Preeclampsia Be Prevented?
Although there is no cure for preeclampsia, medical research suggests that some steps may be taken during pregnancy to prevent, delay onset or lessen its symptoms. These may include increased monitoring and preventative intervention, including low-dose aspirin.
You can also talk to your doctor about completing a screening test to help determine your risk for developing early-onset preeclampsia.
NTD Eurofins is the only lab to offer the Preeclampsia Screen | T1, which combines personal history, ultrasound measurements, blood pressure, and analysis of three biological markers in mom's blood to yield a risk assessment for early-onset preeclampsia. A high-risk test result gives you the chance to take some easy steps to manage your pregnancy.
Pregnancy is an adventure with twists and turns. Our goal at NTD Eurofins is to make sure your unique adventure is full of joy, comfort, and health. Proper prenatal care, proactive screening, and support from your trusted physician can help make that a reality.
Know your choices, understand your options, and talk to your doctor about preeclampsia today.
- Preeclampsia Foundation. (2019). About Preeclampsia. Preeclampsia Foundation.https://www.preeclampsia.org/health-information/about-preeclampsia
The information provided represents the general opinions of NTD Eurofins and is not intended to be used as specific advice for any one individual. Individuals should always consult with a physician to obtain specific advice and to receive answers to any and all questions or concerns related to health, wellness, pregnancy, and birth.
Pursuant to applicable federal and/or state laboratory requirements, Eurofins NTD, LLC has established and verified the accuracy and precision of its testing services. Tests are developed and performance characteristics determined by Eurofins NTD, LLC. The methods and performance characteristics have been reviewed and approved by the New York State Department of Health.