Pre-eclampsia is a condition that can affect pregnant women during their second trimester up to 6 weeks after delivery. Its exact cause is unknown and can affect any pregnant woman. Initial signs of pre-eclampsia are high blood pressure and protein in the urine. These are usually detected at antenatal check-ups and women are then monitored closely and appropriate arrangements are made. Other warning signs include intense headaches, blurred vision, oedema (swelling to hands, face and feet) and pain below the ribs.
Birth and removal of the placenta is a way of reversing the disease process. Preeclampsia may still occur in the postnatal period. Women should be monitored very closely even after birth. If left undiagnosed, there are several complications that can occur, all with poor outcomes for mother and baby. These include eclamptic fits (seizures), organ failure, stroke, stillbirth and death.
Working as a midwife in the UK has exposed me to many cases of pre-eclampsia, all of which have been managed well, monitored closely and fortunately resulted in the best outcomes possible both mother and baby. In the UK, up to 6% of pregnancies are affected by pre-eclampsia. However, in Bangladesh, the situation could not be more different. Pre-eclampsia is the second highest cause of maternal mortality in Bangladesh and takes the lives of approximately 1000 – 1200 women each year (that equates to roughly 20% of all maternal deaths in Bangladesh).