Preeclampsia After Delivery: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Many expectant women are aware of a condition called preeclampsia. It is a disorder characterized by abnormal rise in blood pressure and excess loss of protein in urine usually after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The condition ends after child birth. However, in rare cases preeclampsia can also develop after delivery of the fetus.

Most cases of postpartum preeclampsia develop within 48 to 72 hours after childbirth. But occasionally it may be delayed up to one month after the delivery. Although uncommon, preeclampsia after delivery is a serious condition which requires to be treated promptly.

Untreated cases can lead to serious complications such as seizures, pulmonary embolism etc.

Causes And Risk Factors For Postpartum Preeclampsia

Researchers are still not able to clearly understand the cause of preeclampsia as well as that of postpartum preeclampsia. Therefore it becomes difficult to determine who will develop preeclampsia after childbirth. However, it is believed that the process may have begun while the woman is pregnant but the symptoms may remain subdued and they appear only after the birth of baby.

Several risk factors are suspected to cause preeclampsia after childbirth such as:

  • Abnormal rise in blood pressure during pregnancy, especially after 20 weeks of gestation.
  • Familial factor: The chances of high blood pressure and excess loss of urine are high in woman if she has close relative, her mother or a sibling having history of preeclampsia.
  • Age: A pregnant woman below the age of 20 and above the age of 40 has greater risk of developing preeclampsia after delivery.
  • Overweight: The risk of preeclampsia after pregnancy is increased if the pregnant woman is obese.
  • A women having twins or multiple fetuses in her womb is at higher risk of suffering from preeclampsia and preeclampsia after delivery.

Signs And Symptoms Of Preeclampsia After Delivery

Many women after their delivery are not able to detect the signs of postpartum preeclampsia, which develops within 48 to 72 after childbirth.

Also during this period, the signs may be missed as she is concentrating more on the newborn as well as recovering from exhaustive labor process. Most of the signs and symptoms are similar to that of preeclampsia.

  • Abnormal rise in blood pressure. It is usually above 140/90mm of Hg.
  • Nausea and headache.
  • Blurring of vision and increased sensitivity to light.
  • Severe unbearable headache.
  • Excess loss of protein. This may be detected only after urine test.
  • Reduced quantity of urine output.
  • Pain in upper quadrant of right side of abdomen.
  • Sudden breathlessness.
  • Swelling of extremities and face.
  • 1 to 2 kg of weight gain in one week.

Treatment For Preeclampsia After Delivery

Preeclampsia after delivery if left untreated can cause serious complication such as seizures, pulmonary embolism and stroke. Since majority of woman are unable to detect the sign, the doctor suspecting this catastrophic event to happen in vulnerable cases keeps the woman for one or two days under observation in a hospital. Here regular blood pressure check- up, blood tests and urine tests are conducted. It helps to detect if there is excess loss of protein, rise in blood pressure, and function of kidney.

The most concerning complication of preeclampsia after delivery are seizures. Therefore, if the condition is detected, anti convulsant medicines are prescribed to prevent seizures. To control high blood pressure, patient is also prescribed anti-hypertensive medications.

During this period patient is also advised to consume less amount of salt in food due to hypertension. In case if a woman delivers at home and experiences any of the above mentioned signs within 48 to 72 hours, she should consult her doctor immediately.