Hypertension - Pre-eclampsia - Eclampsia during pregnancy

Gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are medical complications that occur exclusively in pregnancy, or for a short period after pregnancy.

Gestational hypertension is increased blood pressure during pregnancy, which did not exist before, i.e. the woman had normal blood pressure before pregnancy. It mostly occurs after the 20tha week of pregnancy. If it appears earlier, then it probably pre-existed, and is very likely to continue to exist postpartum.

Pre-eclampsia is a severe complication of pregnancy which needs to be treated urgently. It is characterised by high blood pressure with shortness of breath, vision problems, headaches, chest or upper abdominal pain, vomiting, and abnormal laboratory findings. In its most severe form (which is fortunately rare) it is accompanied by seizures and loss of consciousness, a condition called eclampsia.

What should I pay attention to

Gestational hypertension on its own is no cause for the pregnant woman to be afraid and concerned about herself and the foetus. It is easily treated with medicines that are carefully selected and are suitable for pregnancy.

Caution is needed, though, when hypertension is severe, which is distinctively defined in pregnancy, or with accompanying symptoms such as persistent, intense headaches, shortness of breath, vision problems, and chest or upper abdominal pain. In fact, when these alarming symptoms occur, hypertension progresses to pre-eclampsia and needs urgent treatment.

A pregnant woman who has any of the risk factors for pre-eclampsia should be well informed by her doctors so that she can identify the dangerous symptoms and ask for help immediately if they occur.

What should I pay attention to

There are some risk factors whose presence increases the likelihood of pre-eclampsia. Among other things, women at higher risk of pre-eclampsia have the following characteristics:

  • Older (>35-40) or very young (<18)
  • Black race
  • Chronic health problems such as chronic hypertension, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases
  • Pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy
  • Family history of pre-eclampsia
  • Pregnancy after in vitro fertilisation (IVF)
  • First pregnancy

A pregnant woman who has any of these factors will not necessarily develop pre-eclampsia or eclampsia. However, identifying risk factors helps in the implementation of preventive therapeutic measures and proper monitoring, so that, if pre-eclampsia does occur it can be dealt with in time, without further complications for the woman and the foetus.

Gestational diabetes treated

Testing pregnant women for gestational diabetes

Childbirth and beyond

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