About 7-10 percent of first-time moms develop preeclampsia in the late 3rd trimester of pregnancy. The cause of preeclampsia, which is also known as toxemia, is unknown. The diagnosis is made when your blood pressure goes up (usually to more than 140/90) and you spill protein in your urine or have swelling in your face, hands, and feet. Many women with preeclampsia feel fine, but others have symptoms of severe preeclampsia such as headaches, seeing spots, blurred vision, pain in the upper abdomen, or seizures (known as eclampsia). Women who are at higher risk include those with chronic high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, and multiple gestations.
Treatment. The only treatment for preeclampsia is delivery. If you have severe disease, your doctor may recommend delivery even if your baby is early. If you have mild disease, you'll probably be evaluated with blood and urine tests; your doctor may recommend induction when your baby is full-term.
Detection. Although researchers have tried for years to find prevention strategies such as baby aspirin, low-sodium diets, and megavitamins, none have proven useful so far. Detection is the best strategy doctors can offer. Therefore, your weekly visits at the end of pregnancy are especially designed to try to catch this disease early.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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