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Preeclampsia and Toxemia - Risks and Treatment

Preeclampsia and toxemia are otherwise known as Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (or PIH).  This refers to high blood pressure experienced when pregnant.  In PIH, the woman's blood pressure will go up, she will retain water, and protein will be found in her urine.

Especially at risk for developing preeclampsia / toxemia are first-time moms, women whose mothers or sisters had the condition, women who are carrying twins or other multiples; teen moms; women age 40 or above; women who had high blood pressure prior to their pregnancy; and women who previously had kidney disease.

The symptoms run from mild to severe. Some of the mild symptoms include retaining water, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine.  The severe symptoms include blurred vision, fatigue, headaches, sensitivity to bright light, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, ache in the right upper abdomen, infrequent urination and bruising rather easily (CAUTION: You should immediately contact your doctor if you experience severe headaches, pain in the abdomen, blurred vision or infrequent urination).

Once you've detected some of the symptoms, how can you definitively determine whether you have Pregnancy Induced Hypertension?  This diagnosis will have to be made by your health-care provider.  When you go in for a prenatal checkup, he / she should check your urine levels and blood pressure, and might also order some blood tests to determine the presence of hypertension. 

Some other tests that he / she might request include an ultrasound scan to check on the baby's growth, a Doppler scan to check how efficiently blood is flowing to the placenta, and a check-up of the kidney and of blood-clotting.  From these tests, the doctor should be able to tell if you have PIH.

If it's determined that you do have it, treatment will vary depending on your due date.  If you're close to the expected delivery, and if the baby is sufficiently developed, it's likely that the doctor will want to proceed with delivery as soon as it's feasible.  However, if the child hasn't yet reached full development, the health-care provider will likely ask you to do:

  1. Take the baby's weight off major blood vessels by having you rest on your left side;
  2. Come in for more frequent prenatal checkups;
  3. Eat less salt;
  4. Drink plenty of water (around eight glasses a day).  In some cases, the doctor might prescribe high blood pressure medicine as well.

While there are no certain ways to prevent PIH, there are some factors that are suspected to be contributing factors. Therefore, if you address these factors, there is some belief that you can reduce your chance of developing hypertension. These suggested strategies include:Drink between six and eight glasses of water daily.

  • Use a minimal amount of added salt in your foods.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Avoid junk food and fried foods.
  • Exercise consistently.
  • Throughout the day, make a practice of elevating your feet.
  • Stay away from alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
  • As directed by your doctor, take recommended medicines and supplements.  But never take medicines during pregnancy without the blessing of your doctor.
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