You could say that Beyoncé, Marian Carey, and Kim Kardashian have quite a lot in common. Stardom and fame of gigantic proportions, a fierce and loyal following of superfans, huge financial success. The list goes on, but there is something else that ties these influential women together, that you may not have realised. They all experienced Pre-pclampsia in at least one of their pregnancies. Beyoncé suffered in 2017 during the pregnancy of her twin children and spent a month on bed rest before having an emergency C-section. Kim Kardashian was induced in her pregnancy five weeks early. She suffered so much, that her subsequent babies came via surrogacy. Mariah Carey experienced pre-eclampsia during her twin-pregnancy in 2011 and it led to an early C-section delivery.
These women had a tough, tough time, and survived this potentially life-threatening complication of pregnancy. But how much is known about this condition? I see many antenatal women in my Physiotherapy practice, most of whom are unaware of the important signs and symptoms to watch out for. This blog is therefore to help shine a light on pre-eclampsia, in line with World Pre-Eclampsia day, marked this year on 22 May 2019.
Pre-eclampsia effects 10% of pregnancies worldwide, and is a serious condition related to high blood pressure in pregnancy. “Eclampsia” is the Greek word for lightning, and as such, pre-eclampsia can come unexpectedly. It usually affects the second half of pregnancy, or up to 6 weeks post-after the baby is born. Recognising early signs and symptoms of the condition is very important, as delayed diagnosis and monitoring can lead to serious health complications for both mother and baby. Early signs include a raise in blood pressure and protein in urine. Other symptoms include:
- Significant swelling and puffiness of the ankles, feet, face and hands (a certain amount of swelling is normal in pregnancy)
- Severe headaches
- Visual changes or disturbance (spots, light flashes, or vision loss)
- Nausea and vomiting in the second half of pregnancy
Causes of Pre-eclampsia
The exact cause of Pre-eclampsia is unknown, however there are important risk factors for developing Pre-eclampsia to be aware of. These include:
- Being diabetic
- Having blood pressure or kidney issues before becoming pregnant
- Having a family history of Pre-eclampsia, or having experienced it yourself in a previous pregnancy
- Being over 40 years old
- Having twins or another multiple baby pregnancy
- Having a raised BMI of over 35
High risk women may be offered Aspirin to take during the pregnancy, to reduce the risks of developing pre-eclampsia.
Treatment of Pre-eclampsia
Treatment involves very careful monitoring, and a hospital stay may be required. Medication may be needed to help control the mothers blood pressure, but ultimately, delivering the baby and placenta is regarded as best treatment. Most pregnancies end up being delivered early at either 37 or 38 weeks, rather than full term at 40 weeks. It can be earlier in more severe cases. Being induced or having a c-section delivery are not uncommon for women with pre-eclampsia, as demonstrated Beyoncé, Mariah Carey and Kim Kardashian. Most cases of pre-eclampsia improve as soon as the baby is delivered, though there are some rare complications, which you can read about here. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pre-eclampsia/complications/)
Advice for pregnant women
Many women will tell you that pregnancy is a confusing time and full of highs and lows. It can be incredibly exciting and special one minute, then full of worry and fear of the unknown the next. Take things week by week as you learn to cope with your every changing body and the demands of pregnancy. Talk to your midwife early if you are concerned about any of the risk factors for pre-eclampsia. Your blood pressure and urine should be monitored routinely for changes. If this is not happening, don’t be afraid to question why not! Know your family history, especially for pregnancy, high blood pressure, and kidney issues. If you develop any worrying symptoms, seek help and reassurance early. Attend all of your mid-wife appointments and take care of yourself post pregnancy too. Eating well, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight are all essential for health in both the ante- and postnatal period.