Preeclampsia – A life-threatening disorder of pregnancy leads to desire to give back

0037Jill Daniels considers herself blessed. Preeclampsia turned her first pregnancy into a life-threatening situation and cast a shadow of fear over her next two pregnancies.

    In recognition and gratitude for having three healthy children, Daniels is helping to organize the Minnesota Promise Walk for Preeclampsia™ in Rochester on May 12.

Frightening diagnosis

Like many women, Daniels knew little about preeclampsia before being diagnosed with it 31 weeks into her pregnancy. “At a routine prenatal check up my doctor noticed that I seemed to be retaining fluids and there was an increase in my blood pressure.”

    Daniels was put on bed rest and was monitored closely. Then she began to feel worse and had severe pain in her upper abdomen. Her doctor called to confirm lab results from the previous day indicating that Daniels had to be induced immediately.

    Once at the hospital, her health deteriorated and she was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, a group of symptoms that include hemolysis (H), elevated liver enzymes (EL) and low platelet count (LP).

    Daniels gave birth to her son, who weighed 4 pounds 2 ounces. She spent the next five days in the hospital while her son spent 28 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Preeclampsia affects mother and baby

Preeclampsia, sometimes referred to by its older name, toxemia, is a life-threatening disorder of pregnancy and the post-partum period that affects both the mother and the unborn baby. One in 12 pregnant women in the United States will be diagnosed with preeclampsia—nearly 300,000 women each year. Worldwide, 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,” said Kim McKeown, M.D., Olmsted Medical Center.
“It is characterized by elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine,” she explained.

    “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,” said McKeown. “Since the disease can accelerate quickly, pregnant women should contact their medical provider immediately if they have any concerning symptoms.”

A puzzling problem

No one knows what causes preeclampsia. There are no definite ways to prevent it, and there is no treatment. In the United States, the rates of preeclampsia, maternal deaths and premature births
are all rising.

    “The only definitive treatment is delivery, a problematic solution, as preeclampsia can occur as early as 20 weeks, often requiring premature delivery and its associated complications for the baby,” said Vesna Garovic, M.D., Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, professor of medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

    Garovic and her team are researching the mysterious health issue. “We are hoping to develop a test that can identify women at risk before symptoms develop,” said Garovic.

    Garovic also warns of the health risk beyond the affected pregnancy. “Women with preeclampsia are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and may experience other long-term health issues.”

Taking strides

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month and is recognized throughout the country with The Promise Walk for Preeclampsia™.

    Jill Daniels feels fortunate about her outcome with the disorder but knows that many others don’t have the same good news to report. “My family and I will be supporting the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia to help find a cure and support families whose lives have been or will be touched by preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.”

Laurie Archbold is the principal with Encore Public Relations. She had hypertension with her first child and feels blessed to have two healthy children and to be helping with the Minnesota
Promise Walk.