Preeclampsia is a complication during pregnancy that affects approximately 5 to 8% of pregnancies. There is every chance that you have heard about the blood pressure condition before, either through a discussion with your doctor or through the experience of a person known to you.

But what if you are being told you are at risk of preeclampsia yourself? If you are planning on getting pregnant soon, or you already are and know you have a bigger risk for the condition, knowing how to prevent preeclampsia can put your mind at ease and give you the tools you need to remain healthy.

In today’s health feed, Nutritionist and Dietician Avni Kaul talk about what preeclampsia is, it’s symptoms, and how diet and exercise can help one prevent it.

What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a serious condition during pregnancy and sometimes during postpartum that is diagnosed through high blood pressure which signifies that another organ system usually the liver and the kidneys, may not be functioning normally.

Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis of Preeclampsia

There are several signs and symptoms of preeclampsia, but the 2 main factors needed for diagnosis are:

a.      At least 2 blood pressure readings over 140/90 mm HG taken with a gap of 4 hours apart.

b.      Protein in urine, a condition known as proteinuria.

Other symptoms may include, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, and change in vision. It is, however, possible for preeclampsia to be present without any physical symptoms which is why it is critical never to miss a pre- or post-natal visit for blood pressure monitoring.

Preeclampsia is generally diagnosed post 20 weeks of being pregnant, but in rare instances can also develop post-delivery, a condition called postpartum preeclampsia.  Although preeclampsia is a  serious condition, there are several blood pressure medications and monitoring alternatives available to keep a check on the mother while the baby develops enough for delivery.

Ways to Prevent Preeclampsia:

Regular Pre- and Post-Natal Visits:  Regular pre- and post-natal visits to your doctor is important when it comes to preventing preeclampsia. While most women develop outward signs and symptoms of the condition, some do not, and the first tip-off is mostly higher than a normal blood pressure reading at the clinic. Even if you are feeling fine or are busy with work or if you have to figure out how to manage your other kid/kids at home, please never miss a doctor’s appointment while you are pregnant.

Managing Weight: The last thing you want to hear while you are pregnant and craving for food at an unusual time is that you have to think about your weight. 2 major risk factors of preeclampsia are obesity particularly having a BMI over 30 and gestational diabetes. So, if you are someone who is worried about developing preeclampsia in your pregnancy, or particularly if you have dealt with preeclampsia in an earlier pregnancy, you should maintain a good weight. What exactly does it mean? If you are planning to get pregnant, try to reach a healthy BMI prior to doing so. And if you are already pregnant, try to eat a wide range of healthy foods. Never add additional salt to your food and drink plenty of water throughout the day. If possible, avoid alcohol, fried, and unhealthy foods.

Medications/Supplements: This should certainly be discussed with your healthcare provider or a nutritionist. Taking relevant medicines and adding calcium supplements to your diet could reduce your risk of preeclampsia. You need to discuss the pros and cons of this with your doctor. And never begin any medication or vitamin regimen without specific approval from your healthcare provider.

Exercise: Exercise is good for you anytime, but specifically when you are pregnant. It can decrease discomfort, enhance your mood, develop your endurance for labor, and even assist you to sleep better. It can prevent extra weight gain, along with helping lower blood pressure in some women. Walking, swimming and prenatal yoga can be beneficial, but take your existing physical condition in consideration. Randomly picking and choosing any exercise is not recommended.

Diet for Preeclampsia

  1. Folic acid. Considered to prevent birth defects and decrease the risk of premature birth, folic acid is available in leafy greens, citrus fruits, dried beans, and fortified cereal.
  2. Calcium. Calcium is available in everything from milk and curd to cheese, and spinach. Getting sufficient of it means you and your little one will have stronger bones and teeth.
  3. Vitamin D. Fatty fish, orange juice, egg yolks, and apple are a great source of this vitamin that also assists to build your baby’s teeth and bones.
  4. Iron. Pregnant women require double the amount of iron compared to a nonpregnant woman, so it is essential to make sure you are getting enough. Good sources of iron include beans, spinach, mushrooms, bananas, and pomegranates.

If you are concerned about preeclampsia, be sure to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to find ways to be able to prevent it.

P.S. Any medication should only be followed after your doctor’s advice. Likewise, diet and nutritional changes should also be discussed with a qualified nutritionist.