Postpartum Preeclampsia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

on August 22, 2018

There are countless complications that a woman might experience after childbirth. One of them is postpartum- preeclampsia. Here we will look at this rare, but dangerous medical condition in details.

What is Postpartum Preeclampsia?

It is a rare condition that occurs when a woman experiences high blood pressure and excess protein in her urine post childbirth. This happens right after childbirth. It has been seen that most cases of postpartum Preeclampsia develop within the first 48 hours of childbirth.

That said, in some cases, postpartum-Preeclampsia can even develop up to six weeks after childbirth. This is known as late postpartum Preeclampsia

It is a very serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. If left untreated, postpartum Preeclampsia can result in seizures and other life-threatening complications.

All You Need to Know About Postpartum Preeclampsia

postpartum preeclampsia

What causes Postpartum Preeclampsia?

The causes of Preeclempsia occuring during pregnancy are not known for certain. Similarly, the causes for postpartum Preeclempsia are also not well understood. It is believed that postpartum Preeclempsia is set into motion during the pregnancy. However, the symptoms do not occur till after childbirth.

What are the Symptoms of Postpartum Preeclampsia?

It may be difficult to detect postpartum preeclampsia on your own. The mother is more likely to be concerned with recovering from childbirth and taking care of the baby. Most women who have been detected with postpartum preeclampsia do not even show any of the signs during pregnancy.

The signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia are similar to those of preeclampsia that occurs during pregnancy. These are likely to include:

High blood pressure:

This can be as high as 140/90 millimeters of mercury — mm hg. The normal blood pressure for everyone is 120/80 mm hg. If you notice high blood pressures following childbirth, contact your doctor immediately.

Excess protein in urine(proteinuria):

Your doctor is likely to order the test of a sample of your urine to see if there is any protein present in it.

Sudden and severe headaches after childbirth:

 The causes for these headaches are not known. But if you experience persistent ones immediately after childbirth then inform your doctor. It is probably a sign of postpartum preeclampsia.

Changes in vision:

This includes temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity.

Swelling or bloating of body parts:

If you notice swelling in your legs within 48 hours of childbirth it is a good idea to inform the same to your doctor immediately.

Upper abdominal pain:

You may notice a sharp pain in your stomach near the ribs. Report this type of pain, especially if it occurs right after childbirth, to your doctor

Nausea or vomiting:

If you get severe nausea or vomiting within 72 hours after childbirth, then maybe it is due to postpartum preeclampsia. It is especially alarming if it is accompanied by severe persistent headache and blurred vision.

Decreased urination:

If you have had your baby at the hospital the nurses and midwives keep a close watch on how much urine you pass after six hours of childbirth. If you are at home, try taking a warm bath or shower. If you are still unable to urinate it is advisable to contact your doctor

Sudden weight gain:

The weight gain is typically more than 2 pounds (0.9 kilogram) a week.

If you notice one or more of the above symptoms right after childbirth contact your doctor. Immediate medical attention is very important in the treatment of postpartum preeclampsia.

How can Postpartum Preeclampsia be detected?

Research has been going on to find out different ways in which postpartum preeclampsia can quickly be detected. However, no unique method has come up so far. Since its occurrence, as rare as it is, usually ranges from 48 hours after your baby is born to a few weeks after birth, it can only be diagnosed if you pay regular visits to your doctor. There are normal fluctuations in pressure every now and then, but if there is an unusual increase in your blood pressure and symptoms of proteinuria post giving birth, then it is time to get tests done and confirm whether you indeed have this condition or not.

Postpartum preeclampsia is usually diagnosed with lab tests:

  • Blood tests: These tests can determine how well your liver and kidneys are functioning and whether your blood has a normal number of platelets — the cells that help blood clot. The blood tests would also show how and why your blood pressure is so high.
  • Your health care provider might test a sample of your urine to see if it contains protein. Presence of protein, combined with high blood pressure is usually indicative of postpartum preeclampsia.

Read also : 11 Common Pregnancy Complications You Should Know

What are the Risk Factors associated with Postpartum Preeclampsia?

Are you wondering whether you are likely to develop postpartum preeclampsia? Here are a few risk factors that are known to increase your risk of developing it. Remember that there has been limited research in the field and further enquiry is pending.

High obesity:

If you are obese there is an increased possibility for you to develop postpartum preeclampsia.

Hypertension during last pregnancy:

You’re at increased risk of postpartum preeclampsia if you developed high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy (gestational hypertension).

Early pregnancy:

Pregnant women under the age of 20 years or over 40 years are more prone to having postpartum preeclampsia

Family history:

If your family (first degree relative) has a history of postpartum preeclampsia or preeclampsia, you are at a greater risk. If your mother or sibling has suffered from preeclampsia or postpartum preeclampsia, it is a good idea to have yourself checked for the symptoms soon after childbirth.

Having multiple babies:

Having twins or more babies increases your risk of preeclampsia.

Recent research has also pointed to the role a father’s genes may have in an increased risk of preeclampsia.

How can Postpartum Preeclampsia be treated?

The good news is that when detected in time, postpartum preeclampsia can be treated and cured with proper medication. Your doctor is likely to prescribe medication for lowering your blood pressure and to prevent possible seizures.

Let’s have a look at the benefits of these medications.

Blood pressure medication:

One of the most notable symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia is high blood pressure or hypertension. Medication can be prescribed by your doctor to help lower the dangerously high blood pressures to normal range.

Seizure prevention medication:

An anticonvulsive medication, such as magnesium sulfate, can help prevent seizures. Magnesium sulfate is typically taken for 24 hours. After treatment with magnesium sulfate, your health care provider will closely monitor your blood pressure, urination and other symptoms.

Magnesium sulphate therapy:

One of the worst symptoms of preeclampsia is seizures. In severe cases of postpartum preeclampsia, women may have seizures, which might lead to further health complications or even death in rare cases. In such cases, magnesium sulphate therapy is used. It is a mineral that is known for reducing seizures. The doctor usually injects it for the best effect.

It is generally considered to be safe to breast feed while under either or both of the above types of medication. However, if you still feel unsure, it is always best to ask your doctor about all possible side effects. It is also good to inform your doctor of any known allergies to any particular component in the medical composition.

Can postpartum preeclampsia be prevented?

Unfortunately, postpartum preeclampsia can never really be prevented due to the lack of scientific research in this field. However, doctors do recommended pregnant women to lead healthier lifestyles, to have a diet low on sodium so as to prevent high blood pressure and take preventive measures accordingly.

Life after postpartum preeclampsia:

A positive diagnosis for postpartum preeclampsia could mean a longer than anticipated stay at the hospital. Getting readmitted to the hospital right after childbirth can be an emotionally taxing time for any person. Due to little research in the field, there is no known way of preventing postpartum preeclampsia. The best way is to be prepared with the knowledge of the signs and symptoms of postpartum Preeclampsia. If you feel you have any concerns with your health right after childbirth feel free to talk to your doctor.

It is also important to note that unfortunately, the long term health effects of postpartum preeclampsia remain in some way. There is no solid scientific research to back this, but doctors think that this probably happens due to a family history of hypertension and heart health in particular. As sad as it is, the high blood pressure remains for quite a long time, long after you have given birth. In such cases, it is very important to follow the doctor’s advice accordingly.

How can I cope after Postpartum Preeclampsia?

The time after childbirth is usually a time full of emotional and physical upheavals. You are already coping with the physical and mental recovery from childbirth. In such a time being diagnosed with postpartum Preeclempsia can lead to additional stress.

A positive diagnosis for postpartum preeclempsia could mean a longer than anticipated stay at the hospital. Getting readmitted to the hospital right after childbirth can be an emotinally taxing time for any person.

In such a vulnerable and delicate state it is most important to have the support and care of your loved ones. Remember to cooperate fully and work with your doctor and caregivers to speed the recovery process. Don’t forget to embrace your new role as the mother of your baby. Performing all your motherly duties will keep you steady on the path to recovery.

Due to little research in the field, there is no known way of preventing postpartum preeclampsia. The best way is to be prepared with the knowledge of the signs and symptoms of postpartum Preeclampsia. If you feel you have any concerns with your health right after childbirth feel free to talk to your doctor.

Don’t worry about sounding paranoid, your doctor is prepared for all questions and he or she should be able to help you out adequately. In any case, they can help diagnose the symptoms and point out if you indeed do have a case of postpartum preeclempsia.

Hope this article was of help to you! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy, Healthy and Empowered Women!!

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