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Copyright 2007

What is Pre Eclampsia?

By Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Pre Eclampsia (or pre-eclamptic toxaemia - PET) is an illness that affects only pregnant women, and their unborn children.

Up to one in ten pregnancies are affected by Pre Eclampsia, which makes it the most common serious complication of pregnancy.

What is it?

Pre Eclampsia can occur at any time in the second half of pregnancy and usually without the woman feeling any symptoms.

Regular medical checks during pregnancy are important to catch Pre Eclampsia as it shows as high blood pressure and with protein in the urine.

Other symptoms and signs of Pre Eclampsia include persistent headaches, sudden swelling of hands, face and feet, blurred vision and lover dysfunction.

Without treatment, Pre Eclampsia will develop into Eclampsia which  causes convulsions on the mother and is usually fatal. Aruond the world, over 50,000 mothers  die each year from Eclampsia.

Who gets it?

Obviously, only pregnant women are vulnerable to Pre Eclampsia. And first time mothers are more likely to develop the illness than other pregnant women - in fact, all first time mothers are treated as high risk for Pre Eclampsia.

Teen mothers and mothers over 35 years are at greater risk than women in their 20s and early 30s.

Women with a previous instance of Pre Eclampsia or a family history of it may also get Pre Eclampsia in subsequent pregnancies. Women with chroinc medial conditions such as hypertension, kidney disease, diabetes and lupus are also at greater risk for a repeat of Pre Eclampsia.

It is rare that any woman develops Pre Eclampsia in subsequent pregnancies if her first pregnancy didn't involve Pre Eclampsia.

How is it treated?

The only cure for Pre Eclampsia is delivery of the baby and placenta. Thus, most women with Pre Eclampsia will deliver a premature baby.

There are medications to reduce blood pressure and patients are ordered to rest. However, the disease will continue to progress until the baby is delivered so delivery as soon as possible is the best outcome.

Once the woman shows significant protein in her urine and has had high blood pressure persistently, she is likely to be hospitalised and not released until after the birth.

If the mother can be stabilised, she may be given drugs to help the baby mature faster to reduce the impact of the premature birth.

In most cases, the mother will be healthy once the baby is born, although a small number may get some long term organ damage from Pre Eclampsia.

How does it affect the baby?

The baby of a Pre Eclampsia patient may grow slowly and therefore be born underweight or experience a potentially harmful oxygen deficiency in utero. Unless the baby has severe or prolonged lack of oxygen and nutrition, the child will not have long lasting effects from the Pre Eclampsia.

Pre Eclampsia results in many premature births and this can have serious implications for the baby.

Up to 200 babies die in Australia each year from Pre Eclampsia issues and the majority relate to premature birth problems.

Can Pre Eclampsia be prevented?

The best action for pregnant women is to have regular check ups with a doctor or midwife. Then Pre Eclampsia can be caught early and dealt with.

Women at particular risk of Pre Eclampsia may wish to discuss this with a doctor before getting pregnant, and to see a specialist during their pregnancy for their routine checks.

Tash Hughes 2007

Tash Hughes is a Melbourne-based Mum of two. She is also a professional writer and owner of Word Constructions. Tash is available to write articles and profiles for any business, as well as doing other business documentation projects. You can see her site and services at www.wordconstructions.com




Pre Eclampsia Week 19 - 25 August


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