It is a fact that experiencing new motherhood is a supreme bliss. Every mother would like to welcome her offspring into the world safely, with utmost care and protection. A high-risk pregnancy due to hypertensive diseases like preeclampsia, eclampsia, toxemia, PIH (pregnancy-induced hypertension) highly endangers the life of the new mother and her baby.
The repercussions are varied and dangerous: pre-term delivery/premature births, under-nourishment for the baby due to Intra-uterine Growth Restriction (reduced blood flow to the placenta), devastating infant deaths as well as maternal deaths. For the past few decades, preeclampsia and eclampsia have occurred in a number of pregnant women globally, affecting both the pregnancy and the post-partum period, resulting either in maternal deaths or in high-risk pre-term deliveries.
Alarming Ratio of Maternal Mortality and High-risk Pre-term deliveries
A close study into the debilitating disorders of preeclampsia and eclampsia brings out some startling facts and statistics related to the diseases. Among recent findings, the rising ratio of maternal mortality due to the severe medical conditions of preeclampsia and eclampsia is the most alarming.
- Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure induced by pregnancy, affects 7 to 10 percent of pregnancies in the United States and is the second-leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. It is the leading cause of pre-term delivery and contributes significantly to stillbirths and death in newborns.
- Eclampsia conditions in the third trimester of pregnancy have been found out to be responsible for about 80% of eclampsia seizures occurring intrapartum (while giving birth) or within the first 48 hours following delivery.
- According to a recent data recorded by Preeclampsia.org, (a foundation and support center for mothers suffering from preeclampsia and for mothers who have outlived the trauma and loss caused by preeclampsia), preeclampsia, eclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of illness and mortality in mothers and infants. Only by conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.
- Research over the years has linked the increased risk of preeclampsia with increased maternal age, a genetic tendency towards high blood pressure, diabetes as well as high body fat.
- Research also shows that more women die from preeclampsia than eclampsia.
- Members of Preeclampsia.org have reported the loss of at least one baby or miscarriage in as many as 20% of their members globally. Additionally, these mothers having high-risk pre-term deliveries have also had the risk of having learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, blindness and deafness.
The Difference Between the Symptoms of Preeclampsia and Eclampsia
Preeclampsia and eclampsia are in reality, two different forms of the same disorder in pregnancy, with eclampsia being the more fatal and serious form of the disorder. Both entail a drastic increase in the mother’s blood pressure which results in abnormal swelling in different body parts of the mother.
While preeclampsia emerges in a mother-to-be, putting her at risk of pre-term labor, C-section delivery and a number of other medical interventions during childbirth, the proper diagnosis of preeclampsia is vital to prevent the more serious and fatal condition of eclampsia.
Various studies in the recent years involving preeclampsia and eclampsia are trying to understand the nature of these two severe medical conditions as they have been proved to be fatal to quite a number of mothers and babies. Surprisingly, no research has been able to prevent these two high risk ailments.
Expert gynecologists around the world agree upon a single remedy in case of preeclampsia, which is an early detection of the condition. Despite extensive research in all these years, no reliable test or symptom so far has been able to predict and also prevent the condition of eclampsia, the more severe form, leaving mothers and pre-term newborns in high risk zones of mortality.
To add to the complications, studies have indicated that there is no evidence of a single symptom profile that is unique to preeclampsia, and that the symptoms largely vary from person to person. Experts over the years have said that there are only certain factors that can change the way preeclampsia shows itself. Those include, but are not restricted to: the patient’s medical history, pregnancy history, diet and overall activity level.
The best and the only available remedy for babies born to preeclamptic mothers who are not diagnosed of the disease at an early stage: early delivery of the baby. This, naturally results in strict vigilance of the both the mother’s and the premature infant’s health in NICU facilities. In case of early diagnosis of preeclampsia, effective screening measures and an extremely efficient prenatal care, prompt treatment and consultation can save the lives of the mother and the baby.
The Standard Treatment Used in Preeclampsia Patients
Over all these years, doctors have prescribed a simple, life-saving salt named magnesium sulfate for mothers diagnosed with preeclampsia with quite satisfactory results, a significantly lower risk of eclampsia seizures, lower risk of maternal deaths, lower risk of the baby developing pneumonia and staying in intensive care. Nevertheless, this drug needs to be administered with utmost care and efficiency.
The fact remains that more research in this sphere is needed to provide a proper insight into the causes and also find a permanent remedy to these high-risk pregnancy conditions. Although in developed countries like the United States, incidences of these deaths are apparently low, it is not so when you look into maternal and infant deaths due to preeclampsia, eclampsia and pre-term births internationally. That surely is not to be taken lightly.