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Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia explained
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Controlling the symptoms of pre-eclampsia


Dr O'Brien
Even though high blood pressure is one of the most common reasons for hospital admission among pregnant women, statistics show that pre-eclampsia affects only seven in every 100 pregnant women and the severity of the condition can vary from patient to patient.

Whilst some have only mild symptoms and need no other treatment than good old-fashioned bed rest, - patients are carefully monitored with regular blood pressure checks and urine samples to access the severity - others can experience life-threatening symptoms that can cause harm to mother and baby.

“Unfortunately, there is no real way to prevent getting pre-eclampsia,” explained Dr O'Brien, a consultant in obstetrics and gynecology who specializes in pregnancy complications.

“We know that low-dose aspirin given to some women reduces the risk by ten per cent. In women who are calcium deficient, calcium supplements can also reduce the risk.”

“The fact that we cannot prevent it is the main reason why we look out so carefully for symptoms of pre-eclampsia, especially in the second half of pregnancy.”

More worryingly a patient suffering from severe pre-eclampsia can go on to develop eclampsia. But it’s important to remember that in pre-diagnosed cases of pre-eclampsia only around 1% go on to develop eclampsia.

Still, Dr O'Brien says it is vital patients are prevented from going on to develop this potentially life-threatening condition by ensuring their blood pressure is controlled with medication.

“They can also be given intravenous magnesium which reduces the risk of convulsion.” He says.

Naturally, the fear of developing pre-eclampsia can cause alarm to pregnant women, even though the condition is rare. Margaret Macdonald, CEO of the pre-eclampsia charity APEC (Action on pre-eclampsia), believes it is vital that women know as much as they can about the condition.

“The condition can happen without warning and quickly become very serious, because the life of both mother and baby are at risk it is important to seek medical advice as soon as you notice key symptoms.” Says Macdonald.



Suzanne Baum
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