Friday, December 3, 2021

    Pre-eclampsia, the reality

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    Bisola Akinlabi
    Akinlabi Bisola is a health and meds journalist with a deep background in Public Health Education and with a B.Sc in Health Education and Masters in Public Health Educator. You can catch up on her articles on her website

    Watching an episode of the reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashian’s during my undergraduate days was the first time I heard the word Pre-eclampsia despite that I still didn’t understand the severity of the condition, later on, is started reading about it, attended several seminars, heard people talk about how they lost a family member to it but still I never imagined it to be that severe until I had my own personal experience.

    Educating people and having knowledge about it and experiencing it are two different things entirely, the worst thing that could happen to an expectant mother is losing her unborn child or having the fear the the baby might be at risk even if the mother is also at risk she will fear for her baby more than herself, I guess that shows the extent of the love and connecting between a pregnant woman and her foetus.

    Pre-eclampsia is a complication that occurs during pregnancy despite its high incidence rate most people are still not enlightened about it. It is characterized by high blood pressure and if left untreated could be serious and even fatal to the extent of damaging some organs in the body, it can occur from 20 weeks but for some it occurs towards the last week of pregnancy.

    Monitoring the blood pressure is an important part of prenatal care because high blood pressure is usually the first sign of pre-eclampsia, once the blood pressure is 140/90 millimeters of mercury or greater, documented on two occasions at least 4 hours apart it is considered abnormal.

    The high blood pressure may develop slowly or may have sudden onset. The day I was diagnosed of pre-eclampsia before checking blood pressure, the hospital I registered normally carry out urine test first and the result show their was protein in my urine from then I knew something was wrong checking my blood pressure again it was high and even though there were hundreds of people that got to the clinic before me, my file was immediately taken to the doctors office but before that the nurse already briefed me and told me I might be admitted, on getting to the doctors office he explained certain things was asked to carry out some test after which I was taken to the emergency room, while all this was happening in my mind I just thought am as fine as anything nothing is wrong with me.

    I have never had high blood pressure but at least I should have felt something , on getting to the emergency room another doctor started asking me several questions concerning other symptoms and signs all I did was shook my head and asked when I will be discharged she just smiled and said as soon as you are better I told nothing is wrong with me, am super heal have never been admitted into an hospital she just smiled .

    Pre-eclampsia mostly develop without any symptoms that’s why it’s important to monitor the blood pressure always. Some of the signs include, excess protein in urine, severe headache, changes in vision, including temporary loss of vision, blurred vision sensitivity to light, upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, decreased urine output ,decreased level of platelets in the blood, impaired liver, shortness of breath due to the presence of fluids in the lungs. Sudden weight gain and swelling(edema) particularly on the face and hands, but these also occurs in many normal pregnancy, so I they are not considered reliable signs of pre-eclampsia.

    The exact cause of pre-eclampsia involves several factors. Experts believe it begins in the placenta, the organ that nourishes the foetus throughout pregnancy. Early pregnancy, new blood vessels develop and evolve to efficiently send blood to the placenta. in women with pre-eclampsia, the blood vessels don’t seem to develop or function properly.

    They are narrower than normal blood vessels and read differently to hormone signally, which limit the amount of blood that can flow through them. Causes of this abnormal development may include insufficient blood flow to the uterus, damage to the blood vessels, problem with the immune system and certain genes. Previously having pre-eclampsia or someone in the family having it, being a hypertensive patient, first pregnancy, history of high blood pressure in the family, IVF are some of the factors that could put you at risk of having this condition.

    The more severe your pre-eclampsia and the earlier it occurs in pregnancy, the greater the risks for you and your baby. Pre-eclampsia may require induced labour and delivery. Delivery by C-section may be necessary, if there are clinical obstetric condition, that may require speedy delivery. Otherwise, your obstetrician may recommend a schedule vaginal delivery.

    Some complications might occur as a result of pre-eclampsia which include, fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia affects the arteries carrying blood to the placenta, if placenta doesn’t get enough blood and oxygen fewer nutrients.

    This can lead to slow growth restriction, low birth weight, my baby had low birth weight as he weighed 2kg at birth despite being full-term but this would not affect the baby’s ability to gain weight later as he now weighs 5.8kg at 4months.

    Pre-term birth could also occur from severe pre-eclampsia as the baby may need to be delivered immediately, a woman whose bed was beside mine had severe pre-eclampsia with blood pressure of 200 plus her baby had to be delivered at 34 weeks of gestation and was kept in the incubator for some time, Prematurity can led to breathing and other problems for the baby.

    Pre-eclampsia increases the risk of Placental Abruption, a condition in which the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery which could lead to the death of the baby. A more severe form of pre-eclampsia is HELLP Syndrome which stands for Heamolysis Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelet count, it can be life threatening for both the mother and child because it presents damage to several organs.

    The lungs, kidney, liver, heart, eyes could get damaged also stroke or other brain injury, some even start showing signs of mental imbalance which I saw someone that experienced it though she became better after delivery, I think that’s what the Yoruba people call “Abisinwin”.

    Having Pre-eclampsia increases the risk of future heart and blood vessel disease, the risk is even greater if you have had pre-eclampsia more than once, to minimize the risk after delivery try to maintain your ideal weight, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and don’t smoke.

    Eclampsia(mother of pre-eclampsia) which is essentially pre-eclampsia plus seizures(convulsion) can develop, here, delivery becomes necessary no matter how far long the pregnancy is, during my stay in the clinic I met a woman that was rushed to the clinic she didn’t register there but at a Traditional Birth Attendant(Alagbo) , she told me she was convulsing and was bleeding from the mouth I knew it was Eclampsia but she blamed her enemies that wanted to kill her, luckily her baby we immediately delivered through C-section but she still insisted her supposed enemy will know the stuff she is made of ,I wonder what she would have done if she had lost the baby.

    Researchers continue to study ways to prevent pre-eclampsia, but so far no clear strategies have emerged. Eating less salt, changing your activities, restricting calories, consuming garlic and fish oil doesn’t reduce the risk. Increasing your intake of vitamin C and E hasn’t been shown to have a benefit. Several researches have been carried out to show association between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of pre-eclampsia but have failed to show connection.

    Usually oral drugs are used in maintaining the blood pressure ,I was first given injection immediately and placed on drugs and consistent monitoring of the blood pressure and the foetus to when there is need for emergency. During my stay in the prenatal ward, our blood pressure and heart beat of the baby was checked at least five times a day just to certify to everything is fine with the mother and child, my drugs and the dosage was later changed when the doctor checked the recorded blood pressure and when I got to 37 weeks plus of gestation, the baby was delivered.

    Being pregnant is a risk in a way because you have to be careful about every aspect of your life hence, it is important to get registered for antenatal, take your perinatal vitamin, don’t miss your dates of appointment and most importantly register in a good hospital where there are professional so you won’t end up blaming yourself for whatever happens.

    I was very lucky there was a woman we got admitted the same say for the same reason she later lost the baby but at least she has done everything necessary. Don’t be the reason for losing a child or even put your self at risk.

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