One of the reasons your blood pressure is checked at every antenatal appointment is because high blood pressure can be a symptom of pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia can reduce the blood flow to the placenta, which can then restrict your baby's growth because not enough oxygen or nutrients are getting through.
Pre-eclampsia affects about one in four women and usually appears after the 20th week of pregnancy. Your age, weight, genetics and how many babies you're expecting can affect your risk.
Raised blood pressure may be the only symptom you get, although others are:
- Sudden swelling or unexplained weight gain
- Visual disturbances
- Upper abdominal pain
The hospital will check your urine for traces of protein (which indicates kidney problems), another symptom. You can't prevent pre-eclampsia, but once it's detected you'll be monitored.
• Swollen feet and fingers
• Being induced
• Caesarean section
• Recovering after a caesarean
Treatment for pre-eclampsia may involve:
- Regular check-ups
- Drugs to lower your blood pressure
- Complete bed rest at home or in hospital
The only way to prevent it once it's detected is to deliver your baby, but obviously being born too early can cause other problems.
Very rarely, women go on to develop eclampsia (a Greek word meaning 'bolt from the blue), a life-threatening condition for you and your baby that causes seizures and can lead to coma, or HELLP syndrome, a combined liver and blood clotting disorder.
So if you're at all concerned - and particularly if you've already been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia - get seen by a midwife or doctor as soon as you can.
What Mumsnetters say about pre-eclampsia
- I had no symptoms I was aware of other than major swelling, which I had for weeks before pre-eclampsia was diagnosed. I went for my routine midwife appointment and had raised protein in my urine and high blood pressure. Those symptoms, combined with the swelling, meant she sent me straight to the hospital. At the hospital they kept me in, made me save every drop of urine I created in 24 hours (that was fun, I had to carry a big jug of pee everywhere I went). That 24-hour urine collection suggested my kidneys were not functioning right. They induced me straight away. Artichokes
- I went from absolutely fine to my liver failing entirely within four hours. Whomovedmychocolate
- I had severe pre-eclampsia leading to HELLP syndrome before the birth of my daughter. I was very lucky not to have convulsions. My reflexes were amazing, if someone toughed my knee my whole leg flew up in the air uncontrollably, a sign of cerebral irritability which means that you are very likely to fit. LaDiDaD