Preeclampsia: What is it and How to Spot the Signs

Preeclampsia is a medical condition that typically occurs during pregnancy. It is generally diagnosed after the 20th week of pregnancy, but can occur at any point. Symptoms usually include high blood pressure, swelling in the hands, feet, and face, protein in the urine, sudden weight gain, and headaches.

Left untreated, preeclampsia can be dangerous for both the mother and baby. It can lead to serious complications like eclampsia (seizures), HELLP syndrome (which causes severe liver and blood pressure complications), placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the inner wall of the uterus that can cause severe bleeding), and an increased risk of miscarriage or preterm delivery.

Spotting the Signs of Preeclampsia

The only way to diagnose preeclampsia is by going to your doctor for regular prenatal check-ups. Even if you feel healthy, it's important to keep track of your blood pressure, weight gain, urine protein content, signs of swelling, and other symptoms.

If any of these signs become severe or persistent, tell your doctor right away. It's also important for pregnant women to be aware of their own body and keep an eye out for the following signs of preeclampsia:

  • High blood pressure (greater than 140/90)
  • Headaches that do not go away or get worse
  • Abdominal pain, particularly in the upper right side
  • Rapid weight gain due to fluid retention and swelling
  • Excessive swelling in the hands, feet, or face
  • Blurred vision or temporary vision changes
  • Sudden onset of severe nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased urine output or dark colored urine
  • Signs of premature labor (contractions, cramping, etc.)

If you experience any of these signs, it's important to speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Early detection and proper treatment can help prevent serious problems for both mother and baby.