PIH Or Preeclampsia

They Are One And The Same

Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) or preeclampsia, is a disorder that only appears during pregnancy, usually after 20 weeks gestation, as well as after delivery. It affects both mother and baby, sometimes causing death. This condition affects between five to eight percent of all pregnancies and is a condition that progresses very rapidly with swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision as some of the more prominent symptoms. It is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.

Gestational Hypertension Or PIH?

Eclampsia is a Latin word which means seizures or having fits. When high blood pressure is left untreated a person can actually go into seizures. It is for this reason that pregnancy-induced hypertension is referred to as preeclampsia. Normally in pregnancy, a woman's blood pressure goes down. However, if she has preeclampsia, blood pressure goes up during pregnancy. High blood pressure alone is not preeclampsia or PIH. Preeclampsia involves protein in the urine, or liver pain and many other symptoms. If the only problem in the condition is high blood pressure, then it is gestational hypertension. While gestational hypertension does present risks for pregnancy, the range of severe problems is not present.

Who Is At Risk For PIH?

PIH tends to be more common in a first pregnancy and also in women who have a family history of the condition. Certain women are at higher risk for PIH. Women carrying multiple babies, teenagers and women over 40 years of age are all at higher risk for preeclampsia. Women who have had a history of high blood pressure or kidney disease before conception are also high risk. Additional risk factors include first pregnancy, ART, a new partner and situations where the woman may not have been exposed to the father's proteins before conception due to use of barrier contraception so she is less immunized to the father's sperm.

Are There Any Screening Tests?

At this time there is no testing to screen for preeclampsia. However, research is being done to develop a method of screening which will help women at risk to be better informed and prepared. While there is no actual testing, there are some signs which would indicate a problem. A sudden rise in blood pressure can be an early sign and a urine test can disclose whether there is excessive protein in the urine. Some medical conditions predispose a woman to PIH. These include diabetes, lupus, any form of kidney disease or kidney infection and essential hypertension.

What Happens To A Woman And Her Baby?

Today, with excellent medical care available, it is rare for preeclampsia complications to become severe. Nevertheless, the disease is serious and affects the mother and the unborn baby. One of the more difficult issues that must be addressed when a woman has PIH is whether to deliver the baby early by cesarean section. It also may necessitate a longer hospital stay under close observation to protect the mother against risks of stroke, bleeding, kidney disease, accelerated blood pressure, seizures, epilepsy and liver damage.

Though preeclampsia can last for as long as three months after the delivery of the baby, the good news is that the majority of the symptoms are gone before a woman is discharged from the hospital.

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