This article is for you if you are pregnant, have just had a baby or know someone who is pregnant.
Many pregnancies happen uneventfully. The woman goes into hospital and comes out with a baby – wonderful!
But occasionally things do not go as planned. Sometimes, a condition called Pre-eclampsia rears its ugly head in pregnancy and can have devastating consequences.
Pre-eclampsia is not a topic usually featured on this blog. But I have written this in response to a request from a reader asking that I use this medium to raise awareness of this condition following the death of Nigerian singer Kefee Don Momoh who was loved for her catchy tunes such as ‘Branama’ and ‘Kokoroko.’
Reports by popular media at the time of her death revealed that the singer was said to have been 6 months’ pregnant when she died of complications of Pre-eclampsia.
I do not have any direct links with her family, was not involved in her medical management and cannot confirm what she died of but I just want to use this medium to encourage all pregnant women to ensure they ATTEND PRE-NATAL-CARE as a way of preventing unnecessary death from Pre-eclampsia.
So what is Pre-eclampsia?
This is a medical condition which occurs in some pregnant women or women who have just been delivered of a baby due to problems with the placenta through which the baby in the womb is fed.
At the initial stage, the woman may not feel anything at all.
The signs (which can be detected at ante-natal care) may be high blood pressure and protein in urine.
The woman may also notice some symptoms such as headache, blurring of her vision, pain at the upper right side of her tummy and swelling of her face, ankles, feet and hands.
The only cure for pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby.
There is still so much science does not know about Pre-ecampsia and research is ongoing to understand what it is about the placenta that causes pre-eclampsia.
Some studies suggest the following risk factors for Pre-eclampsia:
- first pregnancy or first pregnancy with a change of partner.
- is likely to happen in the next pregnancy if it happened before.
- Age above 40 years
- may occur if your mum or sister had pre-eclampsia
- more than 10 years between pregnancies.
- if you already have hypertension, kidney problems or Diabetes before the pregnancy.
So what should you be doing if you are pregnant??
1. Attend every single pre-natal appointment during your pregnancy. Please don’t be slack about this. Many women say ‘they just check my blood pressure, that’s all’ so they miss their appointments because they don’t understand the value of the pre-natal checks.
2. Ensure that your blood pressure is checked EVERY TIME you attend the clinic. Please be involved: no harm in knowing what your blood pressure is like usually and keeping an eye on what its doing during your pregnancy and in the few weeks afterwards.
3. Ensure that your urine is checked EVERY TIME you attend the clinic. Protein in urine can be an important sign of pre-eclampsia. If you are not asked, please speak up and ask to have your urine checked.
4. Swelling of your feet can be normal in pregnancy but sudden weight gain or excessive swelling especially if there is also puffiness of your face, around your eyes and hands may be an important symptom of pre-eclampsia: ensure that you bring this to the attention of your health care provider immediately.
5. Very painful headache that isn’t easing with simple painkillers, and which is making your eyes sensitive to light or causing your vision to be blurred should be reported IMMEDIATELY so that your blood pressure can be checked.
6. Sudden appearance of nausea and vomiting long after morning sickness of early pregnancy has ceased should be checked out.
7. Tummy pains especially the upper right side of the tummy but also at the shoulder may be a sign of liver problem which can occur in pre-eclampsia
8. Breathing problems may be a sign of fluids accumulating in your lungs: please report this to your doctor immediately.
If you are found to have pre-eclampsia, the doctor would monitor you very closely and may have to deliver the baby before its due to save your life.
Complicated pre-eclampsia can result in seizures (Eclampsia) and death of both mother and baby.
Pre-eclampsia occurs in less than 10% of all pregnancies and if diagnosed and managed appriopriately, can still result in a good outcome for the woman and also the baby.