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Research May Help Predict Preeclampsia
Date:10/17/2008

The pregnancy-related blood pressure condition can pose serious threat to woman and unborn child

FRIDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant with her second child, Joan didn't make much of her abdominal pain and headaches until her symptoms worsened. By the time she saw her doctor, her blood pressure had spiked to a dangerously elevated level, triggering an emergency Caesarean section.

Joan is one of hundreds of women whose brush with preeclampsia is chronicled at www.preeclampsia.org, the Preeclampsia Foundation's Web site. While her story ended happily, some of the site's heart-wrenching narratives describe fetal deaths and stillborn babies, highlighting some of the harsh truths about this mysterious condition.

Preeclampsia is a disorder typically occurring after 20 weeks of gestation. It is characterized by high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine, known as "proteinuria." It can lead to a severe complication called eclampsia that causes the women to convulse.

Eclampsia can permanently damage a woman's vital organs and, without treatment, lead to coma, brain damage or death of the mother and infant.

Some 5 percent to 8 percent of pregnancies are affected by preeclampsia, and it is responsible for 15 percent of all premature births in the United States, the Preeclampsia Foundation reports.

Sometimes, though, the classic symptoms of preeclampsia aren't present, making diagnosis tricky. A woman may have a single blood pressure reading that is higher than normal before her pressure slips down again, or she may not exhibit proteinuria until later in her pregnancy.

"Sometimes women present with this kind of vague feeling that they're just not feeling well," said Dr. B. Denise Raynor, associate professor in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "They don't really have abdominal pain, but they're just not feeling well, or
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