Well into your pregnancy, you become a pro at prenatal appointments: check in, pee in a cup, and wait. As it turns out, urine is a pretty good indicator of health. Like reading the tea leaves or asking the Magic 8 ball, except way more scientific, you urine can tell your care provider about the presence of an infection, diabetes, dehydration, and/or preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is one of the most common pregnancy, birth, and postpartum complications, occurring in 5-8% of all pregnancies, and the leading cause of maternal and infant deaths each year. It can happen to any pregnant person during the second half of pregnancy and up to six weeks after delivery. Worldwide, preeclampsia and other disorders like HELLP syndrome, are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths every year. In the United States, preeclampsia affects one of every 12 pregnancies. 97% of deaths that occur from preeclampsia happen AFTER birth, in the postpartum period.
In honor of Preeclampsia Awareness Month in May, we're sharing the most important thing to know about preeclampsia: symptoms.
7 Preeclampsia Symptoms Everybody Should Know
Early recognition and reporting of symptoms is the key to timely detection and management of preeclampsia. People who are pregnant or recently given birth should contact their doctor or midwife right away if they experience any of the symptoms listed below. While these symptoms don't necessarily indicate preeclampsia, they are cause for concern and require medical evaluation.
- Swelling of the hands and face, especially around the eyes (swelling of the feet is more common in late pregnancy and probably not a sign of preeclampsia)
- Weight gain of more than five pounds in a week
- Headache that won't go away, even after taking medication for pain relief
- Changes in vision like seeing spots or flashing lights; partial or total loss of eyesight
- Nausea or throwing up, especially suddenly, after mid pregnancy (not the morning sickness that many women experience in early pregnancy)
- Upper right belly pain, sometimes mistaken for indigestion or the flu
- Difficulty breathing, gasping, or panting
It's also important to know that some women with preeclampsia have NO symptoms. Sometime, it's a matter of just not feeling right. If you have a sense that something's wrong, even without symptoms, trust yourself and contact your health care provider immediately. Preeclampsia can only be diagnosed by monitoring blood pressure and protein in the urine (which may or may not be present to diagnose preeclampsia). These things are also routinely done at prenatal appointments, which is why keeping your appointments throughout pregnancy and immediately after birth is vital.
To learn more about preeclampsia symptoms, watch the "7 Symptoms" video below, from Preeclampsia Foundation.
For more preeclampsia information and support, visit www.preeclampsia.org.