What is a preeclampsia?
Excess protein in urine and high blood pressure are symptoms of preeclampsia, i.e. toxemia of pregnancy. The reasons behind preeclampsia are still unclear. There are possible immunological factors that cause changes to the smaller blood vessels of the placenta. The system is forced to increase the blood pressure so that the foetus can get enough blood through the placenta. The changes in the placenta’s blood vessels weaken the blood stream. The baby may feel ill in the womb, and in the most difficult cases the foetus’ growth may slow down or even stop completely. The baby will usually gain the lost weight back after it is born.
The earlier the preeclampsia sets in, the greater the risk of premature birth is. With the help of blood pressure control and instructions for rest by the maternity clinic, it is possible to slow down the onset of preeclampsia or even prevent it completely.
High blood pressure
Blood pressure may be high even before the pregnancy or it may rise during the pregnancy. Blood pressure fluctuates during the pregnancy so that during the mid-term it is lower than usual and will then rise back to the normal level during the last trimester.
Urine protein content is measured in addition to measuring high blood pressure. It is important to keep an eye on other symptoms, too, including headaches, upper abdominal pains, swelling and disturbances with vision.
High blood pressure and excess protein in urine can be signs of the onset of preeclampsia.
How to measure your blood pressure:
- Avoid any strenuous activity half an hour before the measurement. Do not drink any coffee, tea or cola and do not smoke half an hour before the measurement.
- Sit next to the table and set the cuff around your upper right arm.
- Wait for 5 minutes for your blood pressure to stabilise and to calm down.
- Avoid talking during the measuring process.
- Measure your blood pressure twice, keeping a 1-2 minute pause between the measurements.
- Note down both results.
- Give the measurement result to you public health nurse.
How to measure urine protein content using a strip:
- Wash your private areas thoroughly with the handheld shower.
- Release some of your urine into the toilet bowl.
- After this, urinate into the cup to provide a urine sample.
- Take one strip from the jar and dip the ‘pillows’ into the urine sample.
- Set the strip in a horizontal position and wait for 60 seconds.
- Examine the colour of the strip’s ‘pillow’ by comparing it to the colours presented on the side of the strip jar.
- Estimate the protein content, using the colour, and set it on level at +, ++ or +++.
- Tell your public health nurse the result or, in unclear situations, ask you nurse to check the test result.
Treating high blood pressure during pregnancy
High blood pressure is the most usual symptom during pregnancy that requires more frequent control. In most cases, the blood pressure increases only slightly and does not lead to serious complications. In some cases, however, the situation can get worse and threaten the well-being of the mother and the foetus. This is why more frequent and intense control may be necessary.
What constitutes as high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is high when it is 140/90 mmHg or more. A higher one-time result does not necessarily mean that blood pressure has risen. Blood pressure is always measured twice and the measurement is carried out again after some rest, if necessary.
Treating slightly increased blood pressure
The first method of treatment for high blood pressure is to rest more. Resting improves blood circulation so that the foetus can get as much nutrients necessary for its growth through the placenta as possible. Unnecessary strain is avoided. Increasing the amount of rest often stabilises the blood pressure, but sometimes medication for lowering the blood pressure is needed.
Notes on nourishment
Food with high salt content may increase swelling, put a strain on the kidneys and increase blood pressure. Recommended daily consumption of salt in a normal diet is a maximum of 5 grams.
The biggest sources of salt in a diet are:
- salt used for cooking and salt added to meals
- bread and other sources of grain
- meat products (sausage, cold cuts)
- spice mixtures
- snacks with high salt content.
Also liquorice and salty liquorice increase blood pressure. In order to reduce swelling, at least 1.5 to 2 litres of liquid, preferably water, should be consumed daily.
Symptoms of escalating preeclampsia
The expectant mother may observe various symptoms, such as headache, disturbances with vision (for example floaters), general nausea or pain below the heart, a belt-like pressure. As the preeclampsia escalates, swelling of the hands and feet increases and the amount of urine may reduce notably. These symptoms need to be reported to the maternity clinic.