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Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH), also called preeclampsia, or toxemia affects between 2-6 percent of all healthy, first time mothers, according to the American Pregnancy Association. It only occurs during a woman’s pregnancy, usually after week 20.

Doctors diagnose mild preeclampsia when a woman develops high blood pressure during pregnancy and protein is detected in her urine. A pregnant woman may also notice that she is retaining much more water than usual, and may see facial puffiness, swelling of the hands and feet. Severe preeclampsia has a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Blurred vision
  • Easy bruising
  • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen

Blood pressure and urine (looking for protein) is routinely checked during each prenatal visit, as a way to assess for preeclampsia. If your doctor suspects you might be developing the condition, blood tests are ordered to see how your blood-clotting abilities, kidney and liver are functioning. An ultrasound is used to see how the baby is growing and to check blood flow to the placenta.

Who Is At Risk? 

The following increase the risk of developing pregnancy induced hypertension.

  • First time pregnancy.
  • History of preeclampsia in previous pregnancies.
  • Multiple gestations (twins, triplets etc.).
  • History of hypertension, diabetes, lupus or kidney disease.
  • Obesity with a body mass index (BMI) 30 or more.
  • Complications of preeclampsia:
  • Placenta Abruption: placenta separates from the uterine wall.
  • Eclampsia: Preeclampsia with development of seizures.

HELLP Syndrome: a life-threatening variation of preeclampsia. It usually occurs during the later weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, though it can occasionally happen after delivery. It gets its name from its symptoms:

  • hemolysis, when red blood cells break down
  • elevated liver enzyme
  • low platelet count

The problem can be difficult for a doctor to discover because it can masquerade as the flu, acute liver inflammation, stomach or gallbladder problems. Death occurs in 0.2 to 0.6 percent of all HELLP cases, so it is essential to have regular checkups during pregnancy and to report any new symptoms to your doctor.

Although, the only definite cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby, doctors can treat preeclampsia in a variety of ways, depending on the severity of the symptoms and how soon a baby can be safely delivered. If the baby’s lungs are developed enough, delivery is performed as quickly as possible. If a baby still needs time to develop in the womb certain measures can be taken such as:

  • Bed rest.
  • Blood pressure medications.
  • Diet modifications.
  • Frequent prenatal checkups for monitoring.

By adhering to regular prenatal check-ups, signs and symptoms of pregnancy induced hypertension can be detected sooner rather than later. This  gives the opportunity for earlier and timely intervention.