Many factors guide a health care provider’s decision about how to manage preeclampsia, including the gestational age and health of the baby, overall health and age of the mother, and a careful assessment of how the disease is progressing. This includes monitoring blood pressure and assessing the results of laboratory tests that indicate the condition of the mother’s kidneys, liver, or the ability of her blood to clot. Other tests monitor how well the unborn baby is growing and/or if he or she seems in danger. Depending on the gestational age and health of the mother and baby, a provider may choose to observe and monitor the pregnancy until the baby is term or they may opt to deliver the baby early.
The healthcare provider will watch for signs of instability in the mother, including very high blood pressure that’s not responding to antihypertensive drugs, signs the kidneys and/or liver are failing, and a reduced number of red blood cells or platelets. Providers also watch closely for indications of an impending seizure or signs the brain is about stroke, and may treat the patient with magnesium sulfate (an anticonvulsant specifically used for preeclampsia). Antihypertensive drugs may be used if blood pressure rises to dangerously high levels.
If the baby is growing poorly, not at all, or scores poorly on a “stress test,” he or she may not survive if left in the uterus. Even if the baby is very premature, delivery may be required if the disease can not be stabilized in order to protect the mother or ensure the baby’s survival.
The best defense against the worst outcomes due to preeclampsia is to ensure patients understand and appropriately respond to the warning signs of preeclampsia.
For more information on this disease, go to the Preeclampsia Foundation website: http://www.preeclampsia.org/ or talk to your provider