A National and Global Problem

Maternal mortality rates are rising in the US, despite global rates showing a downward trend.1 Preeclampsia is a leading cause of maternal mortality both in the US and globally, and in the last 20 years, the rate of preeclampsia in the US has increased by 25%.2

A Difficult Diagnosis

On World Preeclampsia Day, the conversation around preeclampsia is heightened, bringing further into light a disease that is often called the “disease of exceptions” because it is so difficult to diagnose.

The hallmark symptoms of preeclampsia are protein in the urine and hypertension. However, these symptoms are not specific to preeclampsia and can be attributed to many other conditions. Thus, diagnosis of preeclampsia is determined by ruling out the other potential causes.2

The only “cure” for preeclampsia is delivery; however, some mothers are still at risk from preeclampsia and should be monitored for up to 6 weeks post delivery.2

Long-Lasting Effects

Globally, of the 13 million preterm births (defined as babies born before 37 weeks of gestation), it is estimated that preeclampsia is responsible for up to 20% of these births.2

Preterm births can yield myriad complications for the child. Babies born preterm are at an increased risk for learning disorders, epilepsy, and blindness, as well as immune, cardiovascular, psychological, metabolic, respiratory, and gastrointestinal issues.2,3

While most women with preeclampsia will have their symptoms resolved following delivery, some may still have long-term effects. Women who experienced preeclampsia are estimated to have three to four times the risk of hypertension, double the risk of stroke, and two times the risk of coronary heart disease as women who had normal pregnancies.4

Maternal deaths from preeclampsia and its related complications are deaths that are largely preventable; therefore, it is our responsibility to amplify the conversation around a disease that can lead to such devastating effects. Join in the conversation around preeclampsia on Twitter using #WorldPreeclampsiaDay.

For more information about preeclampsia, you can visit the Preeclampsia Foundation website.

References

  1. MacDorman MF, Declercq E, Cabral H, Morton C. Obstet Gynecol. 2016; 128(3):447–455
  2. Preeclampsia Foundation. Health Information FAQs. https://www.preeclampsia.org/health-information/faqs. Accessed 21 May, 2019.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Premature birth. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-birth/symptoms-causes/syc-20376730. Accessed 21 May, 2019.
  4. Preeclampsia Foundation. After Preeclampsia: Listen to Your Heart, It May Be Telling You Something. https://www.preeclampsia.org/the-news/145-patient-support/652-after-preeclampsia-listen-to-your-heart,-it-may-be-telling-you-something. Accessed 21 May, 2019.