What is Pre-Eclampsia?

By Blackwater Law

Pregnant woman in hospital bed

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that is usually not life-threatening that does, however, impact many women during pregnancy

What is Pre-Eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia is a condition which affects a relatively low proportion of pregnant women, usually during the second half of their pregnancy or soon after the baby is delivered. Although the exact cause of pre-eclampsia isn’t known, it’s thought to occur when there’s a problem with the placenta (the organ that links the baby’s blood supply to the mother’s). More medical research is needed to fully understand the origin and cause of pre-eclampsia.

Whilst the exact cause of Pre-Eclampsia is not known, it has been linked with problems relating to the placenta; the organ which regulates the passage of blood between the mother and her baby. It typically manifests at around 20 weeks of pregnancy and is identified by the manner in which mothers present with elevated levels of protein in their urine (proteinuria), as well as high blood pressure.

Whilst these symptoms might understandably be hard for you to perceive yourself during the early stages of pregnancy, a trained medical professional should be reasonably expected to be able to diagnose pre-eclampsia during the course of a regular antenatal check-up – helping you to avoid suffering the worst potential effects of the condition as a result of delayed or misdiagnosis.

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Who is at Most Risk of Pre-Eclampsia?

Studies show that pre-eclampsia affects up to 6 out of every 100 pregnancies. Additionally, severe cases develop in 1 to 2 out of every 100. It has been discovered that there are a number of conditions or illnesses, previous or current, that may increase the chances of developing pre-eclampsia. These include:

  • Having diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease prior to starting pregnancy
  • Having a condition such as lupus or antiphospholipid syndrome (which increases the risk of blood clots)
  • Having developed pre-eclampsia during a previous pregnancy

Others that are less severe may include:

  • Having a family history of the condition
  • Being over 40 years of age
  • The time between the previous pregnancy being 10 years or more
  • Expecting multiple babies
  • Having a BMI (body mass index) of 35 or over

If you have multiple of the above conditions, your chances of developing pre-eclampsia are heightened. In these instances the midwife should be aware of the heightened chances of developing pre-eclampsia during the pregnancy and should monitor as a result. Where a midwife fails to carry out monitoring despite being in a higher risk group, it may be possible to seek midwife negligence compensation.

Symptoms & Signs of Pre-Eclampsia

Some primary early signs of Pre-eclampsia are high blood pressure and proteinuria (protein in your urine) which are unnoticeable to yourself on a day-to-day basis. As a result, it is important to attend all pre-antenatal appointments so that these symptoms, if present, can be discovered.

Despite this, some symptoms can occur that you may notice:

  • Swelling of feet, hands, ankles and/or face due to fluid retention
  • Severe headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Pain just below ribs
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