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What is Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a condtion that affects pregnant women. The condition presents itself, in most cases, after the 20th week of pregnancy. The first signs are higher than normal blood pressure and a presence of protein in the urine. Preeclampsia affects 5-8% of all pregnancies and is responsible for 15% of all premature births and 17% of maternal deaths in the USA. There is no known cause of preeclampsia and the condition is not well understood.
Women who have experienced preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy, have had multiple pregnancies, are pregnant with multiples or are overweight are more likely to develop preeclampsia and will be montiored closely by their obstetrician.
While preeclampsia is usually discovered during a routine appointment, some women will have a rapid onset of preeclampsia. Headaches, swelling, rapid weight gain and changes in vision should be reported to your obstetrician immediately. If the patient is unable to reach her obstetrician or her symptoms are severe, she should proceed to the closest emergency room immediately.
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How is Preeclampsia Treated?
Preeclampsia is treated based on the severity of the condition. If the mothers blood pressure is only slightly elevated and the protein in the urine is of minimal levels, she is watched closely. If she is past 36 weeks gestation, the doctor will likely induce labor if her symptoms get any worse.
Whem a mother's preeclampsia progresses and her blood pressure rises above a safe level, she may be placed on a blood pressure medication and/or prescribed bedrest or a combination of both. Preeclampsia, generally, progresses as the weeks of pregnancy go by. The obstetrician will carefully monitor the pregnant mother and adjust blood pressure medications and bedrest. The goal is to keep the blood pressure under control and to monitor the protein in the urine as well as other lab values.
As the preeclampsia worsens, more frequent visits to the doctor are required as well as regular blood tests. The baby will be monitored carefully to evaulate growth and fluid levels.
When blood pressure medication and bedrest are unable to keep the blood pressure down or the mother develops other signs that the condition is worsening, the mother will be admitted to the hospital and the doctor may prescribe magnesium sulfate for preeclampsia.
Magnesium sulfate is used to relax smooth muscles.When preeclampsia reaches the severe level, seizures can occur. Magnesium sulfate for preeclampsia reduces the risk of seizures. Magnesium sulfate is usually started and then labor is induced or a caesearan section is performed. It will be continued until 24 hours after birth.
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Magnesium Sulfate Side Effects
Magnesium sulfate is described by many as having very unpleasant side effects while others feel very few to no side effects. It is difficult to predict whether a woman will feel any side effects as a result of using this treatment. Common side effects are:
- Heat flashes
- Burning ears
- Heaviness in chest
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eMedicine: Preeclampsia - http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1476919-overview
Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia FAQ - http://www.preeclampsia.org/faq.asp
Medicinenet: Magnesium Sulfate - http://www.medicinenet.com/magnesium_sulfate-injection/article.htm