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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, and this can restrict your baby's growth because not enough oxygen or nutrients are getting through.
It 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. Left untreated, pre-eclampsia can be fatal for both mum and baby, so it's important to know the symptoms.
Symptoms of pre-eclampsia
Raised blood pressure may be the only symptom you get, although others are:
Sudden swelling or unexplained weight gain
Visual disturbances or sensitivity to light
Upper abdominal pain
The hospital will check your urine for traces of protein (which indicates kidney problems), which is another symptom.
During the early stages it can be symptomless - it is often only discovered at routine check-ups which is why, dull though they can sometimes be, regular appointments are so important.
You can't prevent pre-eclampsia, but once it's detected you'll be monitored closely.
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Treatment for pre-eclampsia
This will probably involve:
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 or HELLP syndrome, both of which are far more serious for both you and your baby.
It is easy to become obsessed with your blood pressure and the battle to keep it down. And of course, being told that the most important thing to do is 'Relax! is enough to send your blood pressure rocketing. But if you're at all concerned, get seen by a midwife or doctor as soon as you can.
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