World Pre-eclampsia Day

Today marks World Pre-eclampsia Day, but what is Pre-eclampsia and why does it need a day?

What is Pre-eclampsia?

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).

Our Work

In the UK we are fortunate to have antenatal services and trained professionals who can provide care for pregnant women. In Bangladesh antenatal care is lacking, the Journey Maa 2016 report identified that over 35% of women did not contact any maternal health services in recent pregnancies. This can be detrimental to the health of mother and baby. In addition, there are several misconceptions regarding pregnancy-related complications which often lead to a delay in diagnosis and appropriate treatment. 

At the Maa maternal health camps, blood pressure monitoring and urinalysis (urine testing) make up part of the antenatal check-ups. With Pre-eclampsia being a significant player in maternal mortality in Bangladesh, these check-ups are vital to identify any women who are showing signs of pre-eclampsia. Maa also delivers educational seminars to women and young girls to enable them to build their knowledge of pregnancy and menstrual hygiene including red flags symptoms to look out for such as those related to pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia is a life-threatening condition however if diagnosed and managed safely, it can prevent devastating outcomes.

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