Your doctor measures blood pressure to check for preeclampsiaIf you’re pregnant, chances are you’ve heard or read the word “preeclampsia.” Wondering what the heck it is, and if you have it? Read on!

About 6-8% of women develop preeclampsia. It typically shows up after week 20 and can keep raging on for up to 6 weeks after you’ve delivered. What happens is that your blood vessels tighten for no known reason, which makes your blood pressure rise.

A few things can happen because of this tightening caused from the high blood pressure: your kidneys drip extra protein into your pee, and your capillaries leak fluid into your tissue cells. This makes your hands, eyes, and face swell up. If left unchecked, this pressure can do damage to your liver, kidneys, and brain. It can also cut off blood flow to the placenta, which leads to a premature birth.

That’s why your doctor always has you pee in a cup at every prenatal appointment, and have your blood pressure taken!

If you do develop preeclampsia, you’ll probably be put on bed rest and then monitored. For women past 34 weeks, the doctor or midwife may suggest that inducing labor or getting a c-section.

Here are 5 signs to watch for:

  1. Quick Weight Gain: Anything more than 2 pounds a week is something to pay attention to.
  2. Swelling: of your hands, face, and eyes. Many pregnant women experience swelling feet. But take note if you get puffy in the face, or if it comes on suddenly.
  3. Nausea or vomiting: that comes on unexpectedly should be brought to your doctor or midwife’s attention.
  4. Extreme shoulder pain or pain below your ribs: don’t ignore any pain in these areas, because your body might be trying to tell you something!
  5. Headaches and/or vision issues: A headache that won’t go away and/or a severe headache is another one to watch out for. And, pay attention to vision changes like seeing flashing lights or spots, temporary blindness, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light.

Preeclampsia is tricky because these symptoms all go along with a normal pregnancy. Or, you might not show any signs and then be surprised by the news that you have preeclampsia. That’s why it’s so important to pee in a cup all the time, and it’s why they keep taking your blood pressure. So, keep your doctor’s appointments and be on the lookout for any sneaky symptoms.