Eclampsia and preeclampsia are the condition developed by pregnant women which is marked by increase in blood pressure and increased protein level in the urine. It occurs during or after the 34th week of gestation period and sometimes it can occur even after childbirth. If there is severe form of preeclampsia it can cause grand mal seizures in pregnant women which can become serious. Due to this condition the growing fetus may develop some complications and in some cases it can lead to preterm delivery also.
Medications are given to the pregnant women to prevent high blood pressure and the case is monitored closely until the time of delivery. There is no cure for eclampsia but the pregnant women can monitor her health with her physician to prevent its occurrence. Women who are first time pregnant and particularly those who are in teenage are at increased risk of developing eclampsia.
Exact cause of eclampsia or preeclampsia is unknown. It is considered to be caused by poor nutrition or kind of disorder or abnormality in the blood vessels causing insufficient blood supply to the uterus. Some people are of opinion that eclampsia is hereditary and run in families. Obesity and lack of exercise during pregnancy can also be a cause of eclampsia. Similarly weakened immune system can cause the symptoms of preeclampsia.
Who are at risk?
Women who are in their teens and those who are above 40 years becoming pregnant are at high risk for developing eclampsia. Women with family history of eclampsia and those with the symptoms of eclampsia during previous pregnancy can also develop this condition. Women with hypertension prior to pregnancy and those who have undergone artificial pregnancy through insemination or egg donation are at increased risk. Women with specific diseases like arthritis, diabetes or lupus or sickle cell disease before pregnancy have more chance for developing eclampsia than others.
Actually the symptoms given below develop during preeclampsia. If this condition is not treated then it may develop into eclampsia. Increased blood pressure, high level of protein in the urine, rapid weight gain (due to sudden increase in body fluids), abdominal pain (more on the upper right side), dizziness, moderate to severe headaches and decrease in urine output are some of the warning signals of preeclampsia.
It is quite common for most of the pregnant women to develop swelling on the feet and legs and hands, but this should not be confused with preeclampsia. You need to visit your doctor if you have sudden weight gain (particularly in few days) accompanied by blurred vision and decreased urine discharge.
Some pregnant women may also develop change in their vision and change in reflex and confusion of thoughts during preeclampsia. Bodily fluids get accumulated in their lungs and on their feet and there will be sudden decrease in urine output. Most of the signs would go away after childbirth but some women may develop these symptoms a week after delivery. In rare cases there may not be any symptoms given above except increased blood pressure. Hence it is necessary to monitor your blood pressure with your doctor during pregnancy period.
Preeclampsia can be easily detected during routine pregnancy checkups. A simple test of protein level in the urine and monitoring blood pressure is enough to detect eclampsia. If the reading of blood pressure is above 140/90 it can be due to eclampsia. Blood profile is done to detect the number of blood cell counts and platelets which is an indication for preeclampsia.
There is no particular medicine or therapy to cure preeclampsia. The doctor will have to monitor the symptoms of pregnant women and ensure that blood pressure is under control. All the symptoms of eclampsia will go away after the delivery. Steroid medications are given to ensure that the baby’s lungs are fully matured before delivery. Women who are diagnosed with preeclampsia are advised to take bed-rest with continuous monitoring of blood pressure and weight.
In severe cases, the doctor will have to decide whether to wait for the pregnancy period to complete or to induce labor or to make C-section delivery to save the life of both. Magnesium sulphate is given in suitable doses intravenously to such women to prevent seizures during delivery. In case the seizure is not controlled then your doctor may consider giving Lorazepam or phenytoin. Complications can occur both for the women and the fetus during severe cases of eclampsia. It is considered as medical emergency and appropriate treatments are given to bring the condition under control.
Preterm delivery is done on emergency basis if the situation does not improve. Preeclampsia can cause reduced blood flow to the uterus depriving the fetus with blood. It can also cause reduced amount of amniotic fluid which is again a risk for the baby. When the conditions become severe it can cause life threatening damage to the women due to severe uncontrolled bleeding.
In some cases the placenta gets separated from the uterus or placental abruption may develop causing risk for the fetus life. Sometimes preeclampsia can cause kidney damage or liver damage for the fetus. Hemolysis (loss of red blood cells) and reduced platelet levels are the rare complication as a result of preeclampsia which is called as HELLP syndrome.
You cannot prevent preeclampsia or eclampsia but it can always be treated once diagnosed. You need to go for regular checkups with your doctor to monitor blood pressure and weight gain when you are pregnant. In serious condition eclampsia can be fatal and about 2% of the reported cases die due to eclampsia. Women with severe form of preeclampsia have increased risk of developing eclampsia during subsequent pregnancies.