Preeclampsia, a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, is a leading cause of premature birth and a major contributor to adverse maternal outcomes and maternal death. This May, the Preeclampsia Foundation, a US-based patient advocacy organization, is working to ensure that all expectant parents know that this condition can affect any person, in any pregnancy.
The Foundation joins with leading maternal health partners each May to educate women on preeclampsia’s signs and symptoms during pregnancy, and make them aware that they are “still at risk” for postpartum preeclampsia following their baby’s delivery. Some common signs include:
- High blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lower back pain
- Sudden Weight Gain
- Change in Vision
- Shortness of breath, a racing pulse, mental confusion, or a heightened sense of anxiety
Contact your healthcare provider immediately if these symptoms are new. If you’ve experienced these conditions before pregnancy, be sure to mention them to your care provider during your next visit so they can be monitored closely.
This condition occurs in about 1 in every 12 pregnancies in the United States, and affects women indiscriminately regardless of health, access to resources, race, or socioeconomic status. While there are known risk factors, including first time pregnancies, a personal or family history of high blood pressure, or having had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy, the disorder also occurs in women with no risk factors.
“Currently a cure for preeclampsia does not exist, so by being aware of signs and symptoms, pregnant women can be empowered to take their concerns to their healthcare providers and be more closely monitored to improve outcomes,” said Preeclampsia Foundation CEO Eleni Z. Tsigas.
The 2022 Preeclampsia Awareness Month campaign will also feature the real-life impact that preeclampsia has on women and their families by highlighting findings from the Preeclampsia Registry “Patient Journey” study, recently published in BMJ Open.
Oftentimes with preeclampsia survivors, the exasperation is that ‘I wish I had known the risks,’ or ‘I thought swollen hands was just a part of being pregnant.’
“Results from our Patient Journey study illustrate the common stages experienced by women. This information allows us to better help them, their families and their healthcare providers achieve more positive outcomes,” explained senior author of the study, Dr. Ellen Seely, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass.
“This study presented a unique opportunity to ‘map’ how patients who are diagnosed with preeclampsia move through the experience of diagnosis, management, treatment, and postpartum physical and mental recovery,” said Preeclampsia Foundation CEO and study co-author Eleni Tsigas. “The study aimed to identify common pain points across the shared patient experience that could then be used by healthcare providers to improve outcomes.”
Throughout the month, survivors are encouraged to follow #anypregnancy and #preeclampsia and participate in social media events that include a series of online sessions with organizations who specialize in understanding the impact of preeclampsia. Additional patient and provider education resources and details on above events are available www.preeclampsia.org/awarenessmonth.
Tsigas adds, “Our work will always be to find a cause and a cure. In the meantime, our greatest tool is education.”