Preeclampsia recognition and treatment has certainly come a long way since, let's say, 1925, when Lady Sybil died from it in that episode of Downton Abbey. (Oh, spoiler alert. Also, is anyone else still crushed about that episode from four years ago, or is that just me?) You’re well aware that having it isn't a walk in the park, but it’s definitely treatable — unlike 1925. But you may be wondering, if you had preeclampsia before, will you have it again? OB-GYN Sherry Ross, a women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says, unfortunately, you are at risk. But there are some ways to try to prevent it from happening.
Ross tells Romper in an email interview, “Preeclampsia is a potentially serious blood pressure problem that can affect almost every organ system in a woman’s body … this includes your most important organ [during pregnancy], the uterus, which is carrying your growing baby. Preeclampsia complicates up to 8 percent of pregnancies.”
Ross says high blood pressure (hypertension) is the main symptom of preeclampsia, along with high levels of protein in your urine, and a swollen face, feet, ankles, legs, and hands. “Preeclampsia can affect other organ systems in the body, making this a dangerous disease for both mom and baby. It is brought on by pregnancy,” she adds.
Thankfully, once you’ve delivered the baby, all the symptoms go away after six weeks. But the more advanced your preeclampsia was during your previous pregnancy determines on how likely you are to have it again for subsequent pregnancies, according to Ross.
How can you try to prevent it from happening a second time? Ross says you may be given baby aspirin and calcium supplements to take during your third trimester. Before you’re pregnant again, “Making healthy lifestyle choices, including eating a colorful diet, exercising daily, and limiting your alcohol intake will help decrease your risk,” she adds.
Even if you do have a higher risk of getting preeclampsia in subsequent pregnancies, thankfully it’s easily managed and easy to catch if you have regular appointments with your OB-GYN. Though annoying and stressful, it’s not a death sentence, and many women go on to have happy and healthy labors and pregnancies, even with preeclampsia.