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Preeclampsia: Do You Know The Symptoms?

By Debbie Helton

Preeclampsia: Do You Know The Symptoms?

For expectant and new moms, it’s the unexpected that can quickly change the course of normal pregnancies—especially preeclampsia. Would you know the signs and symptoms of this life-threatening disorder?

“The more a pregnant woman knows about preeclampsia, the more likely she is to recognize and report symptoms to her doctor or midwife,” says Eleni Tsigas, executive director of the Preeclampsia Foundation. “That improves time for diagnosis and medical evaluation, which saves lives—for both mothers and babies.”

Know the Symptoms of Preeclampsia

  • Recognizing and sharing any of the symptoms with your healthcare provider is key to identifying and managing preeclampsia. Contact your pregnancy care provider immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
  • Swelling in your hands or face, especially around your eyes (swelling of your feet is more common in late pregnancy and probably not a sign of preeclampsia)
  • Gaining 5 or more pounds in a week
  • Headache that won’t go away, even after taking medication for pain relief
  • Vision changes, like seeing spots or flashing lights, or partial to total loss of eyesight
  • Nausea or throwing up, especially suddenly, after mid-pregnancy (not the morning sickness of early pregnancy)
  • Upper right belly pain, sometimes mistaken for indigestion or the flu
  • Difficulty breathing, including gasping or panting

These symptoms don’t necessarily indicate preeclampsia but they are cause for concern and require immediate medical evaluation.

Preeclampsia without Symptoms

It’s also important to know that some women with preeclampsia have NO symptoms or they ‘just don’t feel right.’

If you have a sense that something’s wrong, even without symptoms, trust yourself and contact your healthcare provider immediately. Preeclampsia can only be diagnosed by monitoring blood pressure and protein in the urine, which is routinely done at prenatal appointments. Keeping all appointments is vital throughout pregnancy and immediately after birth.

Debbie Helton is a communications specialist with the Preeclampsia Foundation, which is online at Preeclampsia.org.

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