Demi Stokes, English professional footballer who plays for Manchester City and the England national team, on World Prematurity Day (November 17), talked about her “really scary” tryst with pre-eclampsia, a hypertensive disorder that occurs during pregnancy, during her child’s premature birth. Stokes and her partner Katie Harrington have a 6-month-old son, Harlen, who was born six weeks early weighing 5lbs and spent a week in hospital. Harrington, who carried Harlen, became seriously unwell with preeclampsia while giving birth to Harlen. (Also read: Blood pressure basics: How to measure BP at home, ideal range, risks of high BP)
What is pre-eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia is a hypertensive disorder that normally develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with a high risk for both the mother and baby, says Dr. Seema Sharma, Associate Director – Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chandigarh.
“Pregnant women with pre-eclampsia are known to have high blood pressure, a large amount of protein in the urine, swelling, headaches, and blurred vision. Uncontrolled blood pressure can harm the foetus leading to complications in the baby,” says Dr Surabhi Siddhartha, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Kharghar.
Symptoms of pre-eclampsia
In case of pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure (>140/90) and proteinuria are most common, with involvement of the heart, kidneys, liver and lungs.
“Symptoms include headache, blurring of vision, abdominal pain, vomiting, swelling of the face and hands, and shortness of breath. Blood tests can show low platelet count, deranged liver and kidney function, and abnormal coagulation. Routine antenatal check-ups are essential, with urgent visits at the earliest suspicion of symptoms,” says Dr Sharma.
Who’s at risk?
Pre-eclampsia is seen in 10.3% of pregnant females in India, with a higher risk in mothers with history of hypertension, multiple pregnancy, family history of pre-eclampsia, lupus and obesity. The cause is unknown, but the placenta is most commonly implicated. All at-risk mothers are started on oral Aspirin 75-150mg, says Dr Sharma.
How does it affect the baby
Dr Sharma says pre-eclampsia can cause increased risk of premature delivery, respiratory issues, decreased birth weight and amniotic fluid volume. Ultrasound and fetal activity monitoring can help keep track of fetal health.
How do you treat it?
“Regular at-home BP monitoring is advised. For mothers close to 37 weeks, an early delivery is preferred, either vaginal or a caesarean section. For cases developing earlier in pregnancy, a combination of medicines such as labetalol and methyldopa might be started, along with more frequent antenatal visits,” says Dr Sharma.
How to manage pre-eclampsia
Dr Surabhi Siddharth suggests the following tips for expecting mothers to control blood pressure.
– Try to eat a well-balanced diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, lentils, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
– It is better to avoid the junk, spicy, oily, canned, and processed foods.
– Say no to pizza, pasta, Chinese, French fries, burger, chips, chivda, medu vada, kachori, namkeens, samosa, sweets, desserts, colas, and sodas.
– Moreover, it will be imperative for you to exercise on a daily basis. Do activities of your choice such as walking, swimming, cycling, weight training, Pilates, and aerobics.
– Do not skip the medication at all and go for regular follow-ups with the doctor.
– Get enough sleep, eat foods low in sodium, stay stress-free and maintain a healthy weight.
Do not take pre-eclampsia lightly at all. It needs prompt management.