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What is postpartum preeclampsia?
Postpartum preeclampsia is high blood pressure in a woman who has recently had a baby. It can happen as early as a few days afterwards, or up to several weeks after having a baby. In addition to high blood pressure, a woman who has postpartum preeclampsia will also have too much protein in the urine. It is a rare medical condition.
Postpartum preeclampsia is different than preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that happens while you are pregnant. Postpartum preeclampsia can only happen after the baby is born.
Symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia
The main symptom of postpartum preeclampsia is high blood pressure (140/90 millimeters of mercury — mm Hg). Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg. Other common symptoms include:
- New or unusual headaches (can be severe)
- Eye problems (blurry or loss of vision, sensitivity to light)
- A swollen face and limbs (arms and legs)
- Stomach pain near your ribs
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased urination
- Sudden weight gain (several pounds or more in a week)
Serious complications can include:
- Organ damage (kidneys, liver, brain)
- Fluid in your lungs
- Blood clots
- Red blood cell damage
What causes postpartum preeclampsia?
The exact cause is unknown. However, your risk of getting it is higher if you had high blood pressure after the 20th week of your pregnancy. Other risk factors include obesity, a family history of high blood pressure, age (younger than 20 and older than 40), and being pregnant with multiple babies (twins, triplets, or more).
How is postpartum preeclampsia diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure before you leave the hospital after giving birth. It will be checked again at your post-birth healthcare provider visits. If your healthcare provider suspects you have the condition, a blood test and urine test can provide more information. A blood test involves inserting a small needle connected to a syringe into the vein in your arm to collect a sample of blood. A urine test involves peeing into a cup at a lab or healthcare provider’s office. If your blood pressure is too high, your healthcare provider may send you to the hospital for overnight observation.
Can postpartum preeclampsia be prevented or avoided?
This condition cannot be prevented or avoided. Know your body. If you have any of the symptoms listed, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Postpartum preeclampsia treatment
Certain blood pressure medicines are used to treat this condition. The medicine will lower your blood pressure. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe other medicine to prevent seizures.
Living with postpartum preeclampsia
Getting the right medicine and dosage will lower your blood pressure. It will help your symptoms go away. Depending on what medicine the healthcare provider prescribes, it could take days to a few weeks for the medicine to lower your blood pressure to normal.