Doctor's Notes on What Is Eclampsia During Pregnancy?
Eclampsia is a life-threatening complication of pregnancy that can follow untreated preeclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine) that causes a pregnant woman to develop seizures or coma. The cause of preeclampsia or eclampsia is not known, but risk factors include multiple gestations, women older than 35 years, high blood pressure prior to pregnancy, diabetes, other medical problems (such as connective tissue and kidney diseases), obesity, and African American ethnicity.
Symptoms of eclampsia in the mother include seizures or convulsions, elevated blood pressure (hypertension), excess protein in the urine, blurred vision, seeing spots, severe headaches, blindness (occasionally), upper abdominal pain (due to changes that affect the liver), and excess bruising (due to problems with blood clotting). Symptoms of eclampsia that affect the baby include diminished placental blood flow and impaired fetal development (due to hypertension in the mother). A baby may not grow properly and may be smaller than anticipated.
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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)High blood pressure (hypertension) may be present in an individual, without any symptoms. Thus, it is called the "silent killer." Causes of high blood pressure include heart disease, kidney disease, tumors, birth control, alcohol, thyroid dysfunction, and birth control pills.Treatment of high blood pressure is generally through diet, exercise, and medication if necessary.
PreeclampsiaPreeclampsia is a serious complication of pregnancy. Preeclampsia is associated with high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Preeclampsia is also referred to as toxemia, or toxemia of pregnancy. The cause of preeclampsia is unknown. Symptoms of preeclampsia are high blood pressure, decrease in urine output, edema of the hands and face, rapid weight gain, and nervous system changes. Treatment of preeclampsia depends on the gestation period of the baby and the associated medical conditions of the mother.
Pregnancy PlanningPregnancy planning is important to help prevent exposure of the mother and fetus to potentially harmful medications and substances during the early days, and throughout the pregnancy. Nutritional planning, prevention of birth defects, conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease need careful monitoring. Gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and pregnancy-induced hypertension are conditions that may arise during pregnancy. Immunizations, inherited disorders, exercise, air travel, intercourse, and birth control are important factors to consider when planning a pregnancy.
Pregnancy Week by WeekPregnancy occurs when an egg is fertilized by a sperm, grows inside a woman's uterus (womb), and develops into a baby. In humans, this process takes about 280 days.
Pregnancy, BleedingBleeding during all phases of pregnancy may be dangerous, even though it can be caused by a large variety of factors. You should call your health care professional if you have any signs of vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.