Below are some of the frequently asked questions as compiled by "Action on Pre-eclampsia" (APEC). The association is a registered national charity in the UK. which provides support and information on all aspects of pre-eclampsia.Their contact address, e-mail and telephone numbers are given at the end of this section.
What is pre-eclampsia?
This is a pregnancy complication, which is mainly characterized by raised blood pressure (hypertension). Other features include a loss of protein in the urine and usually, but not necessarily, there is oedema or swelling, which may be generalized. A pre-eclampsia patient will therefore commonly have swollen feet, hands and even a puffy face.
This condition can affect any pregnant woman but is more common in the first pregnancy or in a subsequent pregnancy in the case of a change of partner. Untreated, it can have severe consequences, including loss of the baby and even imperilling the mother's own life. One of its later complications is eclampsia (seizures), hence its name. The seizures are similar to "grand mal" epilepsy.
My mother or sister had pre-eclampsia. Does this mean I am likely to get it?
There is no evidence of a genetic tendency for this condition. As such, a family history cannot be regarded as a risk factor for pre-eclampsia.
How can I stop myself getting pre-eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia cannot be predicted before conception. There are women who are at increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia. These include women who have a pre-existing hypertensive condition and those with such diseases as SLE.
A good control of their respective conditions during pregnancy is a good thing, but even that does not influence their chances of their getting pre-eclampsia as the pregnancy advances. For the rest of the female population, there are no known ways of reducing or eliminating the chances of getting pre-eclampsia. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that pre-eclampsia is a relatively uncommon pregnancy complication, affecting roughly one in twenty pregnancies.
If my blood pressure is high, can I bring it down by resting?
Unless the physical activities that you are engaged in are causing stress, rest will not lower blood pressure. If enforced inactivity is actually making you restless, it may end up causing a rise in the blood pressure. Bed-rest is recommended in moderate and severe pre-eclampsia primarily as a measure to optimise blood supply to the uterus and ultimately to the fetus. - In pre-eclampsia, one of the most significant abnormalities is the reduction in the circulating maternal blood volume.
Vigorous physical activities will inevitably shunt blood to the active muscle groups, which may reduce blood getting to the uterus to precarious levels. Bed-rest is meant to prevent this but it will not directly cause reduction in blood pressure.
Why do I need to go into hospital? I can rest much better at home.
The progression of pre-eclampsia is unpredictable. With some, the course is slow, over many weeks, even allowing for getting to term and spontaneous labour and delivery. For others it is quite different, with dramatic progression forcing an intervention and pre-term delivery in a matter of days, sometimes by caesarean section.
In the early days after diagnosis, if the doctors are unsure as to the course your condition is going to take, they may play it safe and keep you in hospital for close monitoring. There may also be concerns about the fetal well-being and you may be detained in hospital for this reason. You will not be kept in hospital purely for bed-rest. When the condition is stable, the practise is to manage you at home, where you may be advised to rest and the community midwife will visit at scheduled intervals to do the necessary measurements and tests. The visits may range from daily to once or twice a week, depending on the degree of severity.