About 5% of women will get preeclampsia, and the majority of those will get it late in pregnancy in a mild form. However, there are women who are at an increased risk for preeclampsia. Women with multiple pregnancies like twins or triplets, women who are older, and women with a history of preeclampsia in the prior pregnancy have higher preeclampsia risk factors. Mothers who have high blood pressure, women who are obese, and women who had infertility treatments are an increased preeclampsia risk factor.
For women at an increased risk factor for preeclampsia, we do follow them more closely. We check their blood pressure frequently or even have them check their own blood pressure at home. Blood pressure abnormalities aren’t something mothers would normally notice on their own.
In terms of prevention, there have been a lot of studies. What seems to be the only effective method is taking a low-dose aspirin every day during pregnancy. Low-dose aspirin is also called baby aspirin, which is over-the-counter. There are generally no side effects with taking this small of a dose. In large combined studies, Aspirin seems to lower the risk of preeclampsia in certain high-risk women.
For women who don’t have high enough calcium intake in their diet, there are some data that giving them calcium can lower the risk of preeclampsia as well.
There’s a lot of very interesting and fascinating research on conditions of pregnancy and what they tell us for the future of health. Many conditions that show up in pregnancy help us identify women who are at risk of certain conditions later in life. For example, women who get diabetes in pregnancy are at increased risk of getting diabetes later in life. Similarly, women who develop preeclampsia in pregnancy seem to have an increased risk of developing hypertension or heart disease later in life. How women respond to pregnancy might be an indicator of how they’re going to respond later in life as well.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!