Pre-eclampsia, once called toxemia of pregnancy, is development of the following symptoms:
|hypertension (high blood pressure)|
|protein in the urine|
|swelling, usually in the legs, or elsewhere in the body|
|changes in muscle reflexes|
Pre-eclampsia occurs only during pregnancy. It develops in about 5% of all pregnancies. The condition is serious because it can lead to eclampsia. Eclampsia refers to seizures or convulsions in a woman with pre-eclampsia.
A seizure is a loss of body control. Seizures often include twitching, shaking or convulsions of the body. If you think you've had a seizure, contact your doctor immediately!
Having swollen legs is a sign of pre-eclampsia and often part of a normal pregnancy. Most pregnant women experience swelling of their legs and other parts of the body. Development of pre-eclampsia includes evidence of the other symptoms in addition to swelling.
An elevated blood pressure is also a sign of pre-eclampsia, but other symptoms are necessary to make a diagnosis. You may experience some of the symptoms without having pre-eclampsia.
Causes and Treatment
Researchers have not been able to isolate a definite cause for preeclampsia, but it occurs most often during a woman's first pregnancy.
The goal in treating pre-eclampsia is to avoid seizures, which occur if the woman develops eclampsia. The first step in treatment is bed rest. The woman is advised to drink lots of water and to avoid salt and foods containing large amounts of sodium.
If these measures don't control the condition, medication is prescribed in some cases to prevent seizures. These medications include magnesium sulfate, antiseizure medicines, such as phenobarbital, and medications that reduce blood pressure.
According to a recent study, if you consume between 1500 and 2000mg of calcium a day during pregnancy, you can lower your risk of developing the problem by at least 60%. You can't get this much calcium from a prenatal vitamin alone, which contains only 200 to 300mg of calcium. Eat calcium-rich foods also. Be aware that this is a new finding and will require more study. It may not be appropriate for everyone.