Postpartum preeclampsia

KEY POINTS

  • Postpartum preeclampsia is a rare condition that happens after your baby is born. It’s similar to preeclampsia where you develop high blood pressure and signs that some organs may not be working normally.

  • It is important to know the signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia so you can get treated right away to prevent serious health complications. 

  • Go to your postpartum checkups even if you’re feeling fine and also contact your health care provider right away if you have any signs or symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia. 

What is postpartum preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a blood pressure condition that only happens during pregnancy and during the postpartum period. Women who have preeclampsia develop high blood pressure and may also have signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working normally.

When preeclampsia happens shortly after having a baby, it is called postpartum preeclampsia.  Although postpartum preeclampsia is a rare condition, it is also very dangerous. Postpartum preeclampsia most often happens within 48 hours of having a baby, but it can develop up to 6 weeks after a baby’s birth.

According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, postpartum preeclampsia can happen to any women, even those who didn’t have high blood pressure during their pregnancy. It can be even more dangerous than preeclampsia during pregnancy because it can be hard to identify.

After your baby is born, your attention is mostly focused on his needs. To identify the signs of postpartum preeclampsia you also need to make sure you are paying attention to your body and how you are feeling. Identifying the signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia and getting help right away is extremely important. Postpartum preeclampsia needs to be treated immediately to avoid serious complications, including death.

What are the signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia?

Signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia may include:

  • Changes in vision, like blurriness, flashing lights, seeing spots or being sensitive to light
  • Headache that doesn’t go away
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting or dizziness
  • Pain in the upper right belly area or in the shoulder
  • Swelling in the legs, hands or face
  • Trouble breathing
  • Decreased urination
  • High blood pressure (140/90 or higher)
  • Too much protein in the urine

Are there things that put me at greater risk for postpartum preeclampsia?

We don’t know exactly what causes postpartum preeclampsia, but these may be possible risk factors:

  • You had gestational hypertension or preeclampsia during pregnancy. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after you give birth.
  • You’re obese.
  • You had a Cesarean birth (also called c-section).
  • You had multiples.
  • You have diabetes.  

What can I do to prevent problems related to postpartum preeclampsia?

  • Go to your postpartum checkup, even if you’re feeling fine
  • Know how to identify the signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia
  • If you have any of the previous signs or symptoms, tell your provider right away. If you can’t talk to your provider right away, call the emergency services (911) or ask to be taken to an emergency room.  

Your provider uses blood and urine tests to diagnose postpartum preeclampsia. Treatment can include magnesium sulfate to prevent seizures and medicine to help lower your blood pressure. Medicine to prevent seizures also is called anticonvulsive medicine. If you’re breastfeeding, talk to your provider to make sure these medicines are safe for your baby.

 

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