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Don’t ignore the signs of preeclampsia

The birth of a new baby is a unique anticipation. Expectant mothers are feeling many emotions, including joy, impatience and nerves. There is a lot of unknown about the process and what will happen during birth.

During a pregnancy and birth, so much focus is placed on the care of the baby that mothers’ symptoms can sometimes be forgotten or ignored. Medical professionals can make mistakes that cause complications or injuries no new parent should have to experience.

Preeclampsia: A common complication

One common condition pregnant women can develop is preeclampsia. It is characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, often the liver and kidneys. It tends to develop after a woman has reached 20 weeks of pregnancy, even if her blood pressure was previously normal.

Preeclampsia can be quite serious, as the longer a woman experiences preeclampsia, the more dangerous it is for herself and the baby. If left untreated, it can sometimes lead to a stroke or organ failure.

Symptoms

Preeclampsia can develop without any symptoms, and sometimes the high blood pressure develops slowly or a sudden onset. Some of the symptoms that do develop can include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Changes in vision
  • Upper abdominal pain, usually under the right-side ribs
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased urine output
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden weight gain and swelling

Risks exist postpartum

Preeclampsia can also develop after a baby is born, though it is rare. Postpartum preeclampsia typically develops within 48 hours of birth, which in some cases is after a mother and baby have already been discharged. It can also develop up to six weeks or later, which is known as late postpartum preeclampsia.

Postpartum preeclampsia has many of the same signs, which can sometimes be confused by medical professionals as normal afterbirth symptoms.

Pay attention to the signs

Reporting by National Public Radio and ProPublica over the past year highlights the increasing rate at which maternal deaths or near-death experiences are occurring in the United States. In many of these cases, medical mistakes are to blame. Doctors misdiagnosed a mother or ignored signs that, if taken seriously, could have been treated without serious complications.

If you are experiencing any symptoms that match preeclampsia, don’t be afraid to be an advocate with your doctors, especially if you feel they are not taking you seriously or you may not “match a typical profile.” Negligence by medical professionals is serious, and new mothers deserve to have as healthy and respectful of care during pregnancy, birth and postpartum as possible.

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