How Dangerous is Pre-eclampsia?

QUESTION

Dear Midwife,
I am about 33-weeks pregnant. I've had high blood pressure, in the 130s/50-60s, for a few weeks. At my last doctor appointment it was still high. I went back today because I had a headache and the pressure was right behind my eyes.

They took my blood pressure and it was 142/78, so they hooked me up to a monitor and then did a sonogram and I have to go back tomorrow. They are watching me for pre-eclampsia.

What is it exactly and will it hurt my baby? What if my blood pressure doesn't get lower and my headache doesn't go away? He said he wanted to check the amniotic fluid but I don't know if he did today when he did the sonogram or not.

Does that mean there is something wrong with the baby. I haven't felt regular movement the last couple days but they said she looked fine on the monitor and sonogram. I'm just scared something will happen to her.

If you could help ease my mind it would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER

I don't know what your normal blood pressure is, so I can't tell how serious your condition is, and what other symptoms you may have or what your lab work says. From what you do say, it sounds like you are getting the proper care.

Pre-eclampsia is potentially a very serious blood vessel disorder, and if left untreated, in some cases could cost both you and your baby your lives. Please do exactly what you're told, and meanwhile, drink all the water and eat all the protein that you can.

-- Cynthia, CNM. PhD.

Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.