Article brought to you by the Preeclampsia Foundation
Maria Moceri has become an advocate for raising awareness about preeclampsia after a terrifying experience with her first pregnancy. In gratitude for her healthy baby girl, Scarlett, Maria is assembling a team for the Boston Promise Walk for Preeclampsia™ being held on Saturday, May 6th, with all proceeds benefiting the Preeclampsia Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to reducing maternal and infant illness and death due to preeclampsia.
Like many women, Maria had never heard of preeclampsia until being diagnosed only 24 weeks into her pregnancy. Experiencing severe back pains on a Friday, she visited her OB, but was sent home in good health. By Sunday evening, the pain became unbearable and she went to her local emergency room.
As her doctors and nurses rushed around trying to diagnose her condition, Maria had a sense of confusion and fear, "People were pacing and my mind was racing; why don’t they know what is wrong with me?"
Within hours, her OB explained that she had preeclampsia and that her organs were shutting down. Maria was rushed to a nearby specialist hospital where she received blood transfusions and was told she needed an emergency c-section or her life was at risk.
Waking up the next morning, Maria met her daughter Scarlett for the first time, weighing in at a mere one pound, one ounce. It was a tough fight from there, as Scarlett battled a chronic lung disease and had to be on a ventilator for months. But after 147 days in the hospital, Maria brought her miracle baby home weighing a healthy seven pounds, one ounce.
Preeclampsia, sometimes referred to by its older name, toxemia, is a life-threatening pregnancy disorder and the postpartum period that affects both the mother and the unborn baby. One in twelve pregnant women in the United States will be diagnosed with preeclampsia; that’s nearly 300,000 women each year. Worldwide, by conservative estimates nearly 76,000 mothers and half a million babies die each year because of preeclampsia.
"Preeclampsia is typically diagnosed in the last trimester of pregnancy but can occur as early as 20 weeks," said Tom Easterling, M.D., University of Washington School of Medicine. "It is characterized by elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine."
"Symptoms such as headaches, excessive swelling, and stomach pain, all signs of preeclampsia, can often be dismissed by mothers-to-be as normal discomforts of pregnancy," Easterling continued. "Since the disease can accelerate quickly, pregnant women should contact their medical provider immediately if they have any concerning symptoms," stated Easterling.
No one knows what causes preeclampsia and there are no definite ways to prevent it and as of now there is no treatment. In the United States, the rates of preeclampsia, maternal deaths and premature births are all rising.
"The only treatment begins with delivery, a problematic solution, as preeclampsia can occur as early as 20 weeks, often requiring premature delivery and its associated complications for the baby," says Vesna Garovic, M.D., Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Garovic and her team are researching the mysterious health issue to develop tests to determine which women are at risk. According to her research, "Preeclampsia can be found in women up to twelve weeks before any symptoms develop. That information may help save moms and babies," said Garovic.
Garovic also warns of the long lasting health risk beyond the affected pregnancy. "Women with preeclampsia have a 40 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and may experience other long-term health issues." The American Heart Association guidelines for cardiovascular disease in women now list a history of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced hypertension as an increased risk factor to develop heart problems (cardiovascular disease, stroke or other conditions) five to 15 years after pregnancy.