The Effects of Preeclampsia and How to Prevent It

Posted on June 14, 2009. Filed under: Pre eclampsia, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Brewer Diet | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Preeclampsia is a disorder that only occurs during pregnancy and just after in the postpartum period. It can affect both the mother and the unborn baby and is estimated to affect between 5-8% of pregnancies. It can be very dangerous and it along with some related disorders are responsible for about 76,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 infant deaths per year. It is not something to mess around with.

The symptoms of preeclampsia are high blood pressure, presence of protein in the urine, sudden weight gain, headaches, swelling and blurred vision. It is typically rapidly progressing which is why when a woman’s blood pressure is higher than what her normal has been during the pregnancy, the care providers tend to start watching closely.

Preeclampsia is most common in the first pregnancy. The risk factors for preeclampsia are:
Previous history of preeclampsia, particularly if onset is before the third trimester
History of chronic high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disorder
Family history of the disorder (i.e., a mother, sister, grandmother or aunt who had the disorder)
Women with greater than 30% Body Mass Index (BMI).
Multiple gestation
Over 40 or under 18 years of age
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Lupus or other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis or MS.

The chances of having preeclampsia in a second pregnancy are kind of vague. According to preeclampsia.org:

” If I had preeclampsia in my first or an earlier pregnancy…

There has not been significant research looking at the rate of reoccurrence in subsequent pregnancies, however the consensus among experts is that preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy is the single largest risk factor for developing preeclampsia. It is entirely wrong to say that if you had it in your first–you will not get it again. The risk of having it again is approximately 20%, however experts cite a range from 5-80% depending on when you had it in a prior pregnancy and how severely you had it.

The risk increases if since your previous pregnancy you have developed chronic hypertension, diabetes, or if you are having IVF, twins or other multiples, as well as the risk factors mentioned above.”

Often times women are given magnesium sulfate to prevent preeclampsia from becoming full on eclampsia (seizures and possible stroke). With severe preeclampsia, women are given the magnesium sulfate while still pregnant. Because preeclampsia is the largest known cause of prematurity in the U.S., treatment with magnesium sulfate often buys enough time to administer steroids to strengthen the babies lungs.

The side affects of magnesium are:
# Flushing
# Nausea
# Vomiting
# Palpitations
# Headache
# General muscle weakness
# Lethargy
# Constipation

The risks of magnesium sulfate are:
# Cardiac arrest
# Pulmonary edema (lungs fill with fluid; can be fatal)
# Chest pain
# Cardiac conduction defects
# Low blood pressure
# Low calcium
# Increased urinary calcium
# Visual disturbances
# Decreased bone density
# Respiratory depression (difficulty breathing)
# Muscular hyperexcitability

The risks to the baby are:
# Hypocalcemia
# Hypercalcemia
# Motor depression
# Decreased muscle tone and drowsiness
# Respiratory depression
# Meconium ileus
# Long bone demineralization
# Congenital rickets
# Radiographic bone changes
# Neuromuscular blockade with gentamicin
# Marked hypotension with nifedipine

In short, it’s nasty, mean stuff (even meaner than pitocin for all you ladies who got a kick out me calling pit nasty and mean)

If you had preeclampsia in your first pregnancy (especially if you had magnesium!) you are probably wondering if there are ways to prevent it in subsequent pregnancies. There is contradictory information on this. Some doctors say you can’t prevent it, some say you can. There aren’t too many ways to say that you can’t prevent it so I guess I don’t have to go into detail with that. I will explore possible ways to prevent it. The way I see it is if the potential prevention methods won’t hurt, why not try?

It has been suggested that increasing dietary fiber can prevent preeclampsia. The study suggests that out of 383 women, the ones who consumed more than 24 grams of fiber a day (the top 25% for consumption) has a 51% reduction in the risk for preeclampsia. So go eat some fiber ladies!!! Your body will thank you in more ways than one;)

Dr. Tom Brewer also claims that with the Brewer Diet, preeclampsia can be prevented. On the website it says…

“It’s not genetics. It’s not random. The cause is NOT unknown. Toxemia CAN be stopped. PreeclampsiaA-toxic-condition-developing-in-late-pre… CAN be stopped. Best of all, YOU can stop it!

HOW? All the scientific research being done on toxemia and preeclampsia these days is focusing on treatment, and none of it is promising. But the research has already been done, many times and many ways in the past 50+ years, and we know that you can PREVENT this from happening to you in the first place, no matter what your personal history may be. The simple answer? GOOD NUTRITION.

Common sense tells you to eat right when you’re pregnant, and traditional wisdom says you’re “eating for two“. So why are doctors telling you to cut out salt, avoid gaining too much weight, and giving you little or no information about what IS a good diet for pregnancy? Why is the medical community so disinterested in this information? As one doctor put it, “No one is going to make any money off good nutrition.”

The simple prevention methods are to be sure to drink lots of water, avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Exercise has also been suggested as a prevention method. Basically, exercise improves circulation which in turns improves blood pressure.

Speaking of exercise, stretching exercises may be more effective at reducing the risk of preeclampsia than walking is for pregnant women who have already experienced the condition and who do not follow a workout routine, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing. So get some prenatal yoga videos and go for it!

Other possible prevention methods are:

* Before becoming pregnant, ask your doctor to perform a thorough evaluation of your blood pressure and kidney function.
* If you or a close relative had vein or lung blood clots before, ask your doctor about testing you for clotting abnormalities (thrombophilias ). These genetic defects increase your risk for preeclampsia and placental blood clots.
* If you are obese, consider weight loss.. Weight reduction may decrease your risk of developing preeclampsia again.
* If you have insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, good control of your blood sugars before becoming pregnant and early in pregnancy reduces your risk for having preeclampsia again.

The prevention of preeclampsia has been the focus of multiple clinical trials. The following medications and supplements have been extensively studied for their potential to prevent preeclampsia:

* calcium (for example, Os-Cal);
* fish oil supplements (for example, Promega);
* supplements with vitamins C and E; and
* baby aspirin (for example, Ecotrin Adult Low Strength).

However, large studies have not shown calcium supplementation, baby aspirin, or fish oil supplementation to be beneficial in preventing preeclampsia. Early studies with vitamins C and E show a possible beneficial effect, but larger studies should be conducted before these agents can be broadly recommended. .

So, what do I think (for what it’s worth, right?)? I think that if it’s not going to cause any harm then try it! If it were me I would:

Get tested for thrombolphilias (I am biased, I have a blood clotting disorder but still if you can treat that and maybe prevent PE, go for it!)

Follow the Brewer diet as best I could
Exercise: walking and prenatal yoga daily
Lose any extra weight before getting pregnant again
Eat lots of fiber (but if you are doing Brewer’s you probably already are)
Drink lots of water (I read one 1/2 ounce per lb of body weight)
Make sure to get lots of calcium and vitamin C

Good luck all you mamas who had it round one. I wish you all the best for round two;)

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