May 22 is World Pre-eclampsia Day

More than 4.1 million women world-wide suffer from pre-eclampsia every year.

What is pre-eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy related disorder.  High blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine accompanies it.  Pre-eclampsia can lead to severe complications for both the mother and baby.

Who is at risk of pre-eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia can affect any pregnancy, but these pregnancies are more at risk:

  • Family history of pre-eclampsia or a previous pregnancy with pre-eclampsia.
  • Pre-existing high blood pressure, renal disorder or obesity.
  • Age over 40 years or younger than 18.
  • Expecting twins or triplets.

What causes pre-eclampsia?

The exact cause of pre-eclampsia is not known.  What we do know is that the concentration of placental substances (e.g. PlGF and PAPP-A) are either too high or too low in pre-eclampsia compared to a healthy pregnancy.

Screening for pre-eclampsia

A screening test in weeks 10 to 13 of pregnancy can reliably predict the risk of developing pre-eclampsia.  The screening test is non-invasive, simple and can be done during your check up with your healthcare provider.

The screening test involves:

  • A blood test for PlGF (Placental Growth Factor) and PAPP-A (Pregnancy Associated Plasma Protein A).
  • Measuring blood pressure.
  • A urine test to detect proteins.
  • An ultrasound scan.

If the results of the tests show that the woman is at high risk of pre-eclampsia, the healthcare provider can prescribe and monitor preventative measures.

What does the pre-eclampsia screening test tell you?

A low risk means that you are not likely to develop pre-eclampsia later in your pregnancy.  Your healthcare provider will continue to provide you with normal prenatal care.

A high risk indicates that you have a higher risk than the norm to develop pre-eclampsia.  Having a high risk is not your fault.  It is not related to what you’re eating or stress.  It is a relative common complication of pregnancy.

Treating pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia can’t be cured, but if predicted early, it can be monitored and treated.  Studies have shown that preventative care reduce the incidence of pre-eclampsia and also reduce the complications of pre-eclampsia for both the mother and baby.

Preventative care aims to prevent pre-eclampsia or delay the onset of pre-eclampsia.  Administering low doses of aspirin before 16 weeks of pregnancy can reduce the incidence of pre-eclampsia.  However, only your healthcare provider should advise and prescribe this.

If you have any concerns regarding your pregnancy, please contact your healthcare provider.

Download your pre-eclampsia information brochure here.