Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital and written by Dr. Mario Cardinale, OB-GYN.
Pregnancy is a miracle. Nothing can compare to feeling that first kick, hearing that first heartbeat or seeing that face for the first time. The months are filled with hopes, dreams and promises that tomorrow will bring.
Just as important as getting the right color for the nursery, the safest crib, the best monitor and planning the perfect shower is attending regular prenatal appointments with your OB-GYN. It may seem tedious sometimes, but monitoring your blood pressure, weight and the protein levels in your urine may save your life and the life of your unborn child.
Preeclampsia is often referred to as the “silent killer” of pregnant women because most who have it feel perfectly fine. In fact, many expectant moms admitted to the hospital with the condition are frustrated because they notice no symptoms.
The condition is considered rare, with less than 200,000 cases in the US each year. Still, preeclampsia is the leading cause of maternal and perinatal mortality, causing 16 percent of maternal deaths worldwide. In the US alone, the rate of preeclampsia increased 25 percent from 1987 to 2004, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
So, what is preeclampsia?
Your mom or grandmother may know it by another name, toxemia. Its main symptoms, which typically begin after 20 weeks of pregnancy, include high blood pressure, swelling in the hands and/or feet and protein in the urine; however, some cases were detected with no protein in the urine. Preeclampsia can lead to impaired liver and kidney function, blood clots, fluid in the lungs, stroke, seizures, placental abruption and, in severe cases, death of the mother and unborn child.
The good news is preeclampsia is treatable if detected. Your provider may prescribe medications to control your blood pressure, improve liver function and prevent a seizure. Once diagnosed, you may be put on bed rest or admitted to the hospital. In the hospital, your provider can monitor the amniotic fluid, a good indicator of poor blood supply to your baby.
Stay faithful to your routine prenatal appointments, where your provider will check for symptoms. Monitor your blood pressure, ensuring it stays below 140/90. Watch for swelling in the face, around the eyes or in your hands. Dull, throbbing headaches are another warning sign. If you notice changes in your vision (double or blurry vision), shortness of breath or experience “morning sickness” after the first trimester, contact your provider immediately.
Take your prenatal vitamins. Eat a diet filled with vitamins, minerals and basic food group items. Avoid processed foods, refined sugars and caffeine. That midnight double-decker cheeseburger with a shake, onion rings or fries – who are we kidding? – and fries may curb the cravings, but nothing in that meal is ideal.
You know your body. Reach out to your provider if you notice anything that doesn’t seem right. Call (337) 470-ERRN (3776) any time of the day or night, even on weekends and holidays, to speak to a Registered Nurse in the Our Lady of Lourdes Emergency Department. Or, call (337) 470-BABY (2229) to speak to the Pregnancy Navigator at Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital about ways you can keep yourself and your baby healthy and well until the big day … and beyond.
About Dr. Mario Cardinale
— Dr. Mario Cardinale is an OB-GYN with Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital. Discover more at LourdesRMC.com/expecting.