Walk for Preeclampsia Awareness
Dangerous Condition for New Mothers Still Has No Known Cure
Do you know that one in 12 expecting mothers experiences preeclampsia and that it’s a leading cause of maternal mortality and prematurity? Hard to believe a cure remains unknown for something so common.
I was born early at 26 weeks gestation due to my mother’s preeclampsia. Then, I became a survivor of this condition during my two pregnancies. Now, I advocate and educate as chair of the Space Coast Promise Walk for Preeclampsia.
High blood pressure and other symptoms of preeclampsia can develop any time from 20 weeks gestation up to six weeks after delivery. The women who survive the condition have increased risk for cardiovascular disease up to 15 years later. Some women’s high blood pressure becomes chronic hypertension.
Self educate and advocate
Patients should ask their doctors questions, as severe cases can be fatal for mom and baby during pregnancy. The high blood pressure of preeclampsia can lead to stroke or heart attack, and can affect mothers during and after birth.
Gestational hypertension is another risk during pregnancy, and HELLP syndrome affects additional organ systems during and after.
I did research through Preeclampsia Foundation (preeclampsia.org) while pregnant with my first baby girl, born at 29 weeks, and I kept in touch with the office during my next pregnancy. My son was born six weeks early.
Preeclampsia used to be called toxemia as doctors thought it was caused by toxins in the mother’s blood. Exact causes are still unknown, years of research has revealed that the problem originates in the placenta, causing high blood pressure, kidney damage and liver damage to the mother and sometimes growth restriction for the baby. Taking a low-dose Aspirin every day during pregnancy can help delay or prevent preeclampsia though not a guarantee.
Mothers should take their blood pressure regularly during pregnancy and through six weeks after birth. Two weeks after my son was born, the preeclampsia caused my blood pressure to spike dangerously high and I wound up in the ER. Blood pressure medication helped prevent a seizure, stroke or death.
The Melbourne-based nonprofit Preeclampsia Foundation provides support and advocacy for the people whose lives have been or will be affected by the condition — mothers, babies, fathers and their families — through research and improved healthcare practices.
Signs and symptoms for postpartum preeclampsia are the same for preeclampsia during pregnancy. It takes up to six weeks for the uterus to return to normal and for conditions contributing to high blood pressure and preeclampsia to settle down. Mom can have an uncomplicated pregnancy and no problems in labor, yet after the baby is born, be affected by high blood pressure.
Taking your blood pressure even once a day during those early post-birth sleepless weeks can be life-saving. New moms can feel fine and still have high blood pressure. Yet if there is any nausea, headache, swelling in the face, feet, hands, and/or upper right abdominal pain, vision changes then check blood pressure AND call your doctor.
Survivors and supporters will gather at the Space Coast Promise Walk for Preeclampsia, rescheduled to Nov. 21, 2020, due to social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The walk is the signature awareness and fundraising event for the Foundation.
Learn more about the walk:
Learn more about the condition:
Julie Melitas is a preeclampsia survivor and chair of the Space Coast Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. The mother of two grew up in Massachusetts. She earned a B.S. in medical ethics from UMASS- Dartmouth and M.B.A. in healthcare management from Florida Tech. Julie enjoys living near the beach, swimming and volunteering.
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