World Preeclampsia Day: Know the Signs

It’s World Preeclampsia Day on the 22nd of May, signalling the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of preeclampsia amongst health professionals.

Preeclampsia is a serious condition that can lead to complications during pregnancy and birth if not detected and closely monitored. Raising awareness of the signs of preeclampsia can help provide a better outlook for mothers and infants and prevent the potential consequences of this condition.

What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition that affects pregnant women. It usually occurs mid-way through pregnancy, but it can also develop after the mother has given birth. High blood pressure in mothers who haven’t experienced it before is usually a sign of preeclampsia, as well as high levels of protein in the urine. If left untreated, preeclampsia can develop into eclampsia, which can lead to seizures and prove a significant risk to expectant mothers and their babies.

World Preeclampsia Day aims to raise awareness of the signs of preeclampsia to make sure women get the support they need for a healthy pregnancy. The condition currently affects 10% of pregnant women and is the leading cause of infancy and maternal death.

Signs of preeclampsia

Understanding the signs of preeclampsia can help doctors provide the support that women need to ensure a safer, healthier pregnancy. Many of the symptoms will be unobserved by sufferers, meaning a medical diagnosis during check up appointments is important. Some of the key signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in urine, detected through a urine test
  • Headaches
  • Problems with vision
  • Severe heartburn
  • Fast and excessive weight gain (as a result of water retention)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling of feet, face and hands
  • Pain below the ribs

The symptoms can vary, and might not all be experienced by women with preeclampsia. Tests will be needed to identify the cause of the symptoms and provide appropriate treatment if detected.

How GPs can help

Preeclampsia can be detected easily during regular check ups. However, if a patient presents concerns that they might have the condition, then tests should be made. Tests include a blood pressure check, a urine test and potentially a blood test to rule out other causes of symptoms. If preeclampsia is diagnosed then the mother will need to be admitted to the hospital until the baby can be delivered.

As a GP, diagnosing preeclampsia or even high blood pressure in pregnant women can help save lives. It’s important to talk to patients about the signs of preeclampsia so that they can self-monitor between appointments, while also advising them to get in touch if they show any concerning signs and symptoms. It’s essential women are made aware of the importance of these check ups and not to miss them.

Holding staff awareness sessions can help all practice workers to understand the signs of preeclampsia, and help alert doctors of a potential case. Posters and literature related to preeclampsia can also help to raise awareness amongst staff and patients, and ensure that people have an understanding of what it is and what risks are involved.

In the UK, women are fortunate to benefit from free pregnancy and maternity care, while those in developing countries might not be so lucky. Providing patients with the right guidance and support is important and could save many lives. Doctors will also want to promote self-care in pregnancy to help expectant mothers avoid other conditions that could lead to complications.

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