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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. It's a serious condition which can affect the placenta, kidneys, liver, brain and other organs, so it’s well worth being aware of the signs.
It affects about one in four women and usually appears after the 20th week of pregnancy. You are more likely to suffer from pre-eclampsia if it is your first pregnancy; you’ve had a child previously and had pre-eclampsia; you have hypertension or diabetes; you are in your teens or over 40; you have a high body mass index (BMI); it is a multiple pregnancy; your mother or sister had pre-eclampsia; or it has been 10 years or more since your last baby.
Symptoms of pre-eclampsia
Often, there are no symptoms at all – high blood pressure is called the silent killer for a reason, so make sure you attend your antenatal appointments, particularly in the third trimester - however, you may experience the following:
swelling or oedema (water retention) – particularly in hands and face
proteinuria (protein in your urine)
sudden weight gain – if you are crying over a spreadsheet of your weight gain every week, you might notice a sudden gain of more than two pounds a week or six pounds a month; while cakes are a likely culprit, this can also be a symptom of pre-eclampsia, so be aware
headaches (dull, throbbing migraine-like pain)
nausea or vomiting (if onset is sudden)
changes in vision (flashing lights, auras, blurred vision)
racing pulse, mental confusion, heightened anxiety, trouble catching your breath
stomach or right shoulder pain (epigastric pain, possibly under the right-side ribs: similar sensation to heartburn)
lower-back pain (while back pain is common, it can indicate liver problems)
hyperreflexia - eg if your reflexes are checked, your leg kicks very hard - you are unlikely to notice this yourself unless you have an awful lot of time on your hands
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