Preeclampsia is a condition that affects nearly 3% of pregnancies and is characterized by high blood pressure, thereby causing serious health complications. The usual signs include swelling or puffiness on the face and hands, pain and discomfort below the ribs, etc. Doctors believe that the only way to address preeclampsia is to deliver a baby or give birth around 37 to 38 weeks of pregnancy.
Preeclampsia occurs when hypertension induces protein to leak from the blood into the urine. Mostly, it is detected during prenatal care as a part of routine check-ups by taking a urine sample and testing to see if the urine has protein molecules. Most instances of gestational hypertension typically occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy. And in those females witnessing this, blood pressure usually remains greater than 140/90 mmHg.
Preeclampsia is diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women with de-novo hypertension along with conditions such as:
- Protein in urine greater than 300 mg/day
- Maternal organ dysfunction
- Obstruction in foetal growth
Not every woman will have protein in the urine or have high blood pressure until 20 weeks. Some will have preeclampsia in the early stages of pregnancy, and therefore, preeclampsia is not always diagnosed in the clinical parameters.
The exact cause of preeclampsia is not known yet. It is believed to be related to pregnancy, so both mother and the baby in the uterus are affected with preeclampsia.
It occurs during the growth of the placenta blood vessels that results in impaired circulation within the hollow sphere of cells (blastocysts). The dysfunctional circulation may affect the nutritional needs of the baby. This eventually puts the baby at the risk of the fetal syndrome, wherein the baby does not grow properly.
Less likely, 1 in 100 women will have preeclampsia manifest as eclampsia. It is a life-threatening condition that results in fits or seizures.
What actually causes preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia can be an outcome of a gamut of risk factors. If a woman had pre-eclamptic pregnancy prior to this, the risk is more in the next one.
Other common risk factors include:
- A family history of preeclampsia
- High blood pressure
- The risk is high if you are more than 40
- Previous preeclampsia pregnancy
- Multiple pregnancies
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- High body mass index (BMI)
How to reduce your risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy?
Research has shown that making changes to your diet and lifestyle may help bring down your risk of developing preeclampsia, with diet being the most successful way to losing weight for pregnancy.
There has been light on a low glycaemic diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, beans, healthy fats, olive oils, unprocessed whole grains, which may significantly impact the health of the mother and baby.
Studies have also stated the relevance of omega 3 fatty acids in the prevention of preeclampsia and for the health of the baby as well. At the same time, a mother is supposed to avoid processed foods, white bread, fatty foods, carbonated drinks, salty snacks, etc.
Next is the use of probiotics in the diet for decreasing the risk of preeclampsia. Probiotics help the body get healthy bacteria and microflora so that the body is able to fight infection. Probiotics also lower the risk of gestational diabetes by promoting the metabolism of glucose.
A diet rich in fibre also works to bring down your likelihood of developing preeclampsia. Fibre (fruits and vegetables) is known to keep a healthy gut microflora which helps to retain their protective role. So, certainly, fibres are good for your health if taken daily during the third trimester.
- Calcium: Calcium is also important to reduce the risk of preeclampsia. According to the World Health Organization, if your calcium is already low, you should go for calcium supplements. Also, learn that calcium can inhibit your iron absorption, so include iron-rich foods in your diet.
- Vitamin D: The role of vitamin D cannot be understated during pregnancy because of their role in supporting the placenta through immunity tolerance.
- Multivitamin/mineral (MVM): Multivitamins are highly beneficial when taken during the first three months of pregnancy and also reduces the risk of preeclampsia.
Being overweight elevates your risk of preeclampsia, so this is something you need to address before planning for your pregnancy. Maintain a healthy weight and follow a healthy diet plan inclusive of fibre, probiotics, etc. But before incorporating any changes in your diet, consult your doctor or dietician.
For women with preeclampsia that has led to kidney disease, we provide ayurvedic treatment for proteinuria or kidney disease as well. Contact us for more information on the same.