What is postpartum preeclampsia?
The signs, symptoms, and risks of this potentially deadly condition.
Postpartum preeclampsia can cause many medical issues from seizures to death.
97% of maternal deaths due to preeclampsia actually occur during the postpartum stage.
Monitoring your health should not stop after the baby is born.
It turns out that childbirth is not the cure for all preeclampsia cases. For some women, it is only the beginning. Postpartum preeclampsia is a thing and it can be dangerous. Here are the details.
What is postpartum preeclampsia?
Sure, you’ve heard of preeclampsia, a dangerous condition that is characterized by the sudden show of high blood pressure in pregnant women who did not have it before. These women also have high amounts of protein in the urine and tend to have swelling in their hands or feet. The condition typically diminishes after giving birth.
Most women aren’t aware, however, that it can also occur after childbirth. Postpartum preeclampsia typically develops within 48 hours but it also can happen weeks later. It is a serious condition that can cause seizures and even death if it is not treated. In fact, 97% of maternal deaths due to preeclampsia actually occur during the postpartum stage.
Signs of postpartum preeclampsia
As you recover from childbirth, you should always pay attention to anything that strikes you as abnormal. Being tired, sore, and fatigued is normal – your body just did battle to bring new life into this world. However, if you experience unusual pain or changes in your body, it might be a sign of something else. Some signs of postpartum preeclampsia to look for are:
- a decrease in the need to urinate
- extreme headaches
- pain on your right side under your ribs
- sudden blurred vision, sensitivity to light, temporary vision loss, and other changes to your vision
- swelling of the hands, feet, legs or face
Your doctor will also check you for high blood pressure and large amounts of protein in your urine.
You must first and foremost trust yourself and your instincts. Your body is an amazing creation that can tell you when something is not right. Speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have, no matter how seemingly insignificant. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Causes and risk factors
At this time, preeclampsia and postpartum preeclampsia are unexplained conditions. An exact cause has yet to be pinpointed. However, there are some possible risk factors, such as:
- having chronic high blood pressure or having high blood pressure during your most recent pregnancy
- being obese
- being pregnant with twins, triplets, or more
- suffering from type 1 or 2 diabetes
Without proper care and treatment, most women who experience postpartum preeclampsia will suffer from further medical issues. Some potential issues linked to postpartum preeclampsia include the following:
- fluid on the lungs, leading to pulmonary edema
- seizures and organ damage
- blockage of blood vessels and blood clots
What to do
Trust your instincts. Your body is an amazing creation that can tell you when something is not right. Speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have, no matter how seemingly insignificant. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Postpartum preeclampsia is not something you should treat by yourself. Your doctor needs to help monitor for potential issues and help you find the right course of action.
Your health care provider may suggest that you exercise and be more active. Most often, until you completely recover from childbirth, you should do no more exercise than was safe while you were pregnant.
There is also a chance of your doctor having you take baby aspirin. This can help thin your blood enough to keep it flowing smoothly and prevent some of those issues.
A deeper dive- Related reading from the 101:
- The true amount of time women need to recover after giving birth | Living 101
It is important to give yourself plenty of time to recover.
- How to safely exercise during pregnancy | Parenting 101
These are some tips to use during pregnancy and should be safe to use during recovery. Be sure to consult your doctor first.