All about pregnancy signs and symptoms of pregnancy pregnancy tests home pregnancy test pregnancy stages first trimester of pregnancy second trimester of pregnancy third trimester of pregnancy calculating pregnancy due date prenatal diagnosis healthy pregnancy diet nutrition during pregnancy exercise during pregnancy spotting during pregnancy bleeding during pregnancy smoking during pregnancy sex during pregnancy prenatal care teenage pregnancy twins and multiple births childbirth obstetrics pregnancy ultrasound Chinese lunar pregnancy calendar (Chinese gender chart) fertility charting ovulation: calendar, prediction, test getting pregnant gender selection prenatal tests genetic screening genetic counseling birth control (contraception, pregnancy prevention) male condoms female condoms diaphragm cervical cap birth control pills Norplant Depo Provera spermicides emergency contraceptive pill (morning-after pill) natural family planning intrauterine device (IUD) birth control patch sterilization (vasectomy) fertility awareness method (FAM) abstinence pre-eclampsia, eclampsia HELLP syndrome intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) premature birth stillbirth Caesarean section preterm labor Rh incompatibility (erythroblastosis fetalis) ectopic pregnancy pregnancy diabetes (gestational diabetes) group B strep morning sickness (NVP) hyperemesis gravidarum miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) postpartum hemorrhage pregnancy-induced hypertension Pica
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Pre-eclampsia is a condition which only occurs during pregnancy. It causes high blood pressure, protein leaks from the kidneys, and other symptoms may develop. It usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is mild in most cases. In some cases it becomes severe, and serious complications may affect the mother, the baby, or both. Eclampsia is a type of seizure (convulsion) which is a life-threatening complication of pregnancy.
About 1 in 100 women with pre-eclampsia develop eclampsia. So, most women with pre-eclampsia do not progress to have eclampsia. But, the treatment and care of women with pre-eclampsia aims to prevent eclampsia, and other possible complications. Pre-eclampsia is a serious disorder of pregnancy characterised by high maternal blood pressure, protein in the urine and severe fluid retention. It is the most common complication of pregnancy, affecting around five to 10 per cent of all pregnancies in Australia. One to two per cent of cases are severe enough to threaten the lives of both the mother and her unborn child. The mechanisms behind the condition are mysterious, but genetic factors and the placenta seem to play significant roles. For reasons unknown, pre-eclampsia tends to be more common in first rather than subsequent pregnancies. The mother's blood pressure usually returns to normal as soon as the baby is delivered.
The placenta is the spongy material in the mother's uterus that nourishes the fetus. Some experts believe that a problem with the placenta causes preeclampsia. The mother has spasms of the blood vessels, which increase her blood pressure. The blood flow to the placenta is impaired. If the blood pressure is not controlled, it can damage the placenta and cause the death of the fetus. Preeclampsia develops in 5% of pregnant women. It usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. It may be mild or severe. The high blood pressure can affect the brain, kidneys, liver, and lungs. If the high blood pressure in the brain causes bleeding into the brain, the woman may have seizures. This complication is called eclampsia. One in 200 pregnant women who have preeclampsia will go on to have eclampsia. The seizures of eclampsia are marked by general abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Usually the seizures start before the baby is born. However, about 20% to 25% of the time, seizures begin within the first 24 hours after the baby is born. A few women develop seizures later, up to 3 weeks after the birth.
Eclamptic convulsions look no different from epileptic fits. The mother is gripped by synchronised, repetitive, jerky and sometimes quite violent movements involving muscle groups in the eyes, jaw, neck and limbs. The spasms lead to temporary loss of consciousness, stop the mother from breathing, may make her bite her tongue and sometimes cause urinary incontinence. Most convulsions last for a minute or less before stopping spontaneously. If they are continuous, without a break, the woman is said to be in status epilepticus, which is extremely dangerous. Before they suffer an eclamptic convulsion, most women have signs of pre-eclampsia, most notably high blood pressure and/or protein in the urine. Often there are one or more warning symptoms - such as restlessness, shakiness, intense headache, upper abdominal pain or visual disturbances - before the fit occurs, although these are very common, non-specific symptoms which are usually perfectly benign. For some sufferers, however, eclampsia is entirely unheralded, and signs of pre-eclampsia appear afterwards.
Pre-eclampsia has no symptoms in its early stages, when it can be detected only by the routine screening tests carried out in antenatal clinics. A combination of rising blood pressure and protein in the urine suggests pre-eclampsia, although there is no foolproof diagnostic test. Swelling (oederna) of the hands, feet and face caused by fluid retention is often a feature of pre-eclampsia, but is also common in normal pregnancy. Symptoms like upper abdominal pain and vomiting, severe headache, and visual disturbances (such as 'flashing lights') sometimes arise when the disease has reached an advanced stage. These symptoms should therefore never be ignored in pregnancy although, since each can have other causes, they do not necessarily signal danger.
Pre-eclampsia may develop at any time during the second half of pregnancy but commonly develops during the later stages of pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia most commonly causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It can also have a large spectrum of effects and potentially involve most body organs. In its most severe forms, it can cause problems in the kidneys, liver, brain and blood (in particular the coagulation system). Around five to 10 per cent of pre-term deliveries in Australia are due to pre-eclampsia or its associated complications. In utero, the baby is sustained by a special organ of pregnancy called the placenta. This organ allows oxygen and nutrients to pass from the mother's bloodstream to the baby, and waste products (such as carbon dioxide) to pass from the baby's bloodstream to the mother. In pre-eclampsia, blood flow to the placenta becomes sluggish. In severe cases, the baby can be gradually starved of oxygen and nutrients, which may affect its growth. This growth restriction threatens the life of the baby and it is then necessary to deliver the baby prematurely. Another serious complication of pre-eclampsia is abruptio placentae, which means the placenta separates from the uterine wall and the woman experiences vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain. This is a medical emergency.
Mothers are normally admitted to hospital if they have severe pre-eclampsia - which means protein in the urine as well as high blood pressure. This is to enable doctors and midwives to monitor the progress of mother and baby as closely as possible so that delivery can be carried out before complications set in. Pre-eclampsia is progressive - it doesn't get better and usually gets worse. So, once admitted, mothers are not normally allowed home until after delivery. Antihypertensive drugs, which reduce high blood pressure, are often prescribed; although these do not affect the underlying disease, they can reduce the risk of some complications, such as cerebral haemorrhage. Anticonvulsant drugs may also be prescribed to ward off eclamptic fits.
What happens to the baby?: - As the blood supply from the mother to the placenta is restricted, the baby's supply of nutrients and oxygen may be reduced, leading at first to slower-than-normal growth (intrauterine growth retardation - IUGR) and later to oxygen starvation. Once pre-eclampsia is suspected or known, the unborn baby is monitored as closely as the mother so that delivery can be carried out before its problems become serious. Decisions about deliveryare particularly difficult when a very premature fetus (of less than 28-30 weeks gestation) is severely affected by pre-eclampsia but could not be certain of survival outside the womb.
There is some evidence to suggest that regular low-dose aspirin, and calcium supplements may help to prevent pre-eclampsia in some women. These are not standard or routine treatments as the evidence for their benefit is not strong or conclusive. However, one or other may be considered if you have a particularly high risk of developing pre-eclampsia.
More information on pregnancy
Pregnancy - Pregnancy is period of time between fertilization of the ovum (conception) and birth, during which mammals carry their developing young in the uterus (see embryo).
Pregnancy signs and symptoms - During pregnancy a woman's body undergoes a number of changes to allow the fetus to develop inside the womb. The symptoms of pregnancy vary from woman to woman.
Pregnancy tests - A pregnancy test is a test of blood or urine used to determine whether a woman is pregnant. There are two types of pregnancy tests - blood and urine tests.
Home pregnancy test - A home pregnancy test measures the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. All home pregnancy test kits test your pregnancy on the basis of your urine sample.
Pregnancy stages - There are three stages of pregnancy called trimesters. Each trimester is three months. The word "trimester" comes from a Latin word meaning "three months long."
First trimester of pregnancy - First trimester pregnancy is the early stage of pregnancy from conception to 12 weeks gestation, or about 14 weeks from the first day of the last normal menstrual period (LNMP).
Second trimester of pregnancy - In the second trimester the embryo, now known as a fetus, is recognisable as human in form, but is not developed enough to be viable if born. The second trimester is often called the planning trimester.
Third trimester of pregnancy - The third trimester of pregnancy lasts from 28 weeks after your last menstrual period (LMP) until the birth, which usually occurs between the 38th and 42nd weeks of pregnancy.
Calculating pregnancy due date - The due date is usually computed from the first day of the last regular period. In the calendar, this can be figured by taking that date, subtracting three months, and adding seven days.
Prenatal diagnosis - Prenatal diagnosis is the process of detecting and diagnosing fetal abnormalities before birth. A targeted prenatal diagnosis is done when there is a concrete suspicion that there might be a particular disorder.
Healthy pregnancy diet - A balanced diet is key to having a healthy pregnancy. Pregnancy places substantial demands on the availability of iron in the body.
Nutrition during pregnancy - Nutrition is an essential component of prenatal care. During pregnancy, your body needs more nutrients in order to provide a baby with what it needs. Eat enough food to gain weight at the rate recommended by your health care provider.
Exercise during pregnancy - Exercise plays an important role in promoting health and well-being for pregnant women. Excessive levels of physical activity in pregnancy can reduce fetal growth and increase the risk of preterm delivery.
Spotting during pregnancy - Spotting is light bleeding similar to your period and it can happen at any time during pregnancy, but it is most common during the first trimester.
Bleeding during pregnancy - Bleeding from the vagina in early pregnancy is very common. First trimester bleeding is any vaginal bleeding during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
Smoking during pregnancy - Cigarette smoking during pregnancy can cause serious health problems to an unborn child. Many complications of pregnancy are more likely to occur in smokers.
Sex during pregnancy - Sex and sexual intercourse are not harmful during pregnancy. For most women and their partners, sex during pregnancy is fine as long as both partners consent and are comfortable.
Prenatal care - Prenatal care is the health care that a woman receives before her baby is born. Prenatal care is provided for women during the period between conception and birth of the baby.
Teenage pregnancy - Teenage pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs in an adolescent. Babies born to teenagers are at risk for neglect and abuse.
Twins and multiple birth - Multiple pregnancies are on the rise in recent years with more and more twins and other types of multiples being born. A multiple birth is when more than one human baby results from a single pregnancy.
Childbirth - Childbirth (also called labour, birth, or parturition) is the culmination of pregnancy, the emergence of a child from its mother's uterus.
Obstetrics - Obstetrics is the surgical specialty dealing with the care of a woman and her offspring during pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium (the period shortly after birth).
Pregnancy ultrasound - Pregnancy ultrasound is a method of imaging the fetus and the female pelvic organs during pregnancy.
Chinese lunar pregnancy calendar - The Chinese pregnancy calendar was allegedly discovered about 700 years ago. The accuracy of the chart has been proved by thousands of people and is believed to be 99 percent accurate.
Fertility charting - Fertility charting allows you to predict ovulation, pinpoint your most fertile time in your cycle, and increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Ovulation: calendar, prediction, test - Ovulation is the process of discharging a mature ovum (egg) from an ovary after a Graafian follicle - representing the final stage of follicular development before ovulation - has been formed.
Getting pregnant - The best or most fertile time to get pregnant is the period of ovulation in your menstrual cycle. Most women ovulate (release an egg from the ovary) about two weeks before their period.
Gender selection - There are three main techniques of sex selection: pre-natal testing and termination of pregnancy, pre-implantation genetic testing of embryos, and sperm sorting.
Prenatal tests - Prenatal tests are one of the many ways your practitioner can check on the well-being of your growing baby and find out whether you're at risk for complications.
Genetic screening - Genetic screening is a process used to find out what diseases or birth defects a child might inherit from his or her parents.
Genetic counseling - Genetic counseling is the process of determining the risk you have of passing on an inheritable disease to your baby.
Birth control (contraception, pregnancy prevention) - Birth control is the practice of preventing or reducing the probability of pregnancy without abstaining from sexual intercourse; the term is also sometimes used to include abortion.
Male condoms - Condoms are thin barriers made of latex, plastic, or natural membranes. The male condom fits over a man's penis. The female condom fits inside a woman's vagina.
Female condoms - The female condom is a polyurethane sheath or pouch about 17 cm (6.5 inches) in length. It is worn by a woman during sex.
Diaphragm - A diaphragm is a rubber disc a woman places into her vagina. The diaphragm blocks a man's semen from entering the cervix (the opening to the womb).
Cervical cap - The cervical cap is a small latex cup that a woman inserts into her vagina before sexual intercourse. The cervical cap fits snugly over the woman's cervix.
Birth control pills - The birth control pill is a small, usually white, tablet that is taken orally (by mouth). The pill usually comes in a packet that has days marked off for a cycle lasting about a month.
Norplant - Contraceptive implants (Norplant?) are six match stick size implants inserted into the upper arm. Norplant is a form of progestin that is placed under the skin.
Depo Provera - Depo Provera is a hormone, much like the progesterone a woman produces during the last two weeks of each monthly cycle. Depo-Provera or progesterone stops the woman's ovaries from releasing an egg.
Spermicides - Spermicides are chemicals that make the sperm unable to function. Spermicide can be used alone or with other birth control methods to reduce the risk of pregnancy.
Emergency contraceptive pill - Emergency contraception is the use of certain methods after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
Natural family planning - Natural family planning is defined as the understanding and use of the natural phases of fertility and infertility by a couple in order to either achieve or avoid pregnancy.
Intrauterine device (IUD) - An intrauterine device (intra meaning within, and uterine meaning of the uterus), is a birth control device also known as an IUD or a coil.
Birth control patch - The birth control patch is a thin plastic patch (1 3/4 inch square) placed directly on the skin of the woman. It is a hormonal method of contraception obtained by prescription.
Sterilization (vasectomy) - Sterilization is a surgical technique leaving a male or female unable to procreate. It is a method of birth control.
Fertility awareness method (FAM) - Fertility awareness is a means of understanding a woman's reproductive cycle by observing and writing down fertility signs.
Abstinence - Periodic abstinence is a way that sexually active women prevent pregnancy by becoming familiar with their fertility patterns and abstaining from vaginal intercourse on the days they think they could become pregnant.
Pre-eclampsia, eclampsia - Pre-eclampsia is a condition which only occurs during pregnancy. It causes high blood pressure, protein leaks from the kidneys, and other symptoms may develop.
HELLP Syndrome - The HELLP syndrome is a complication of pregnancy featuring a combination of abnormal conditions including emolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count.
Intrauterine growth restriction - Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) refers to the condition in which a foetus is unable to grow to its genetically determined potential size to a degree that may affect the health of the foetus.
Premature birth - Premature birth is defined medically as a birth occurring earlier than 37 weeks. Infants born prematurely have an increased risk of death in the first year of life.
Stillbirth - Stillbirth refers to the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy but before birth. A pregnancy that ends before the twentieth week is called a miscarriage rather than a stillbirth.
Caesarean section - A Caesarean section (Cesarean section AE), is a surgical procedure to deliver one or more babies through an incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus.
Preterm labor - Preterm labor, or premature labor, is when the uterus (womb) contracts and the cervix opens earlier than normal.
Rh incompatibility - Rh incompatibility is a condition that occurs when the mother of a fetus or newborn has Rh-negative blood type and the fetus or newborn has Rh-positive blood.
Ectopic pregnancy - An ectopic pregnancy is one in which the fertilized ovum is implanted in any tissue other than the uterine wall.
Pregnancy diabetes (gestational diabetes) - Gestational diabetes is a condition in which the glucose level is elevated and other diabetic symptoms appear during pregnancy in a woman who has not previously been diagnosed with diabetes.
Group B strep - Group B streptococcus (group B strep) is a type of bacteria that causes infection among newborns, pregnant women or women after childbirth.
Morning sickness (NVP) - Morning sickness, also called nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP), affects between 50 and 85 percent of all pregnant women.
Hyperemesis gravidarum - Hyperemesis gravidarum means excessive vomiting during pregnancy. The severe vomiting associated with hyperemesis gravidarum requires medical attention.
Miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) - Miscarriage is the term used for a pregnancy that ends on it's own, within the first 20 weeks of gestation.
Postpartum hemorrhage - Postpartum bleeding (severe postpartum bleeding) is the loss of more than a pint of blood within the first 24 hours after delivering a baby.
Pregnancy-induced hypertension - Pregnancy-induced hypertension (also referred to as toxemia, preeclampsia and eclampsia) is a condition that may develop during the second half of a woman's pregnancy.
Pica - Pica is a pattern of eating non-nutritive substances (such as dirt or paper), lasting for at least one month.