PREGNANCY AND PRE-ECLAMPSIA (PART 2)
How is Pre-eclampsia treated?
If you are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia during your pregnancy, you will be classed as high risk and will need a full assessment by an Obstetrician. You may need to be admitted to hospital for this assessment.
Tests will be performed to check on the well being of you and your baby during this time. Your baby will be monitored on a CTG machine that records your baby’s heartbeat.
You will need your blood pressure monitoring regularly and also several blood tests to determine the severity of the illness and if it is affecting your internal organs.
Because it is known that delivery of the placenta is the only cure for pre-eclampsia, a plan will be made on when it is the best time to deliver your baby.
Factors of this plan will include:
- The severity of the illness and the affect it is having on yours and your baby’s health
- The maturity of your baby and the affects the immaturity will have should it be delivered
Until your baby is born there are treatments that will be considered.
- You may be given medication to reduce your blood pressure to allow your pregnancy to continue a little further and also to stabilise you prior to delivery.
- 2-4 injections of steroids may be administered which will help to mature your baby’s lungs should it be under 34 – 36 weeks gestation.
- You may be administered a drug called Magnesium Sulphate via an infusion as studies have proven that it roughly halves the incidence of eclampsia (fit or seizure).
Can pre-eclampsia be avoided?
Some women that are at risk of developing pre-eclampsia or who have suffered with the disease previously, may be offered regular low dose aspirin in early pregnancy. Research has shown that this reduces the chance of developing pre-eclampsia and also lessens the chances of your baby being born prematurely or being growth retarded (small for dates).
It is important that you only take aspirin if it has been prescribed for you by an Obstetrician. There are also some recent studies that show that Calcium supplements may also have benefits in pre-eclampsia but again this should be prescribed by your Obstetrician.
Risks of developing pre-eclampsia in a future pregnancy
If you had pre-eclampsia in your first pregnancy you have somewhere between 1:2 and 1:8 chance of developing gestational high blood pressure in any future pregnancies. You have approximately a 1:6 chance of developing pre-eclampsia.
If your pre-eclampsia was severe or you had HELLP syndrome or suffered an Eclamptic fit where your baby had to be delivered before 34 weeks your risks are approximately 1:4.
If your baby had to be delivered before 28 weeks due to severity of the illness that risk increases to 1:2. Being obese also increases your chance of developing pre-eclampsia, therefore if you developed the illness in your first pregnancy it would be wise to try to reduce your BMI within the healthy range prior to becoming pregnant again.
Effects on future health
Research has shown that women who developed pre-eclampsia may have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in later life. Therefore to reduce your chances of suffering a stroke or heart disease you should look into ways to changing your lifestyle.
Things to look at may be, stopping smoking, increasing exercise and maintaining a healthy diet.
Hofmeyr GJ, Lawrie TA, Atallaj An etal;
Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders. Cochrane Database System. Rev. 2010 Aug 4;8: CD001059 [abstract].
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