Obstetric researchers have made much progress in the last decade to increase the safety of
For more information on the Chicago-area event, which will be held Sunday, go to http://www.preeclampsia.org. To learn more about the disease, we turned to Dr. Judith Hibbard, a professor of
Q. What is preeclampsia?
A. It is a condition that only pregnant women can get, marked by
Q. Who is at risk?
A. Typically, preeclampsia is most often seen in women having their first baby, teens or older moms, and in African-American women. Women who are
Q. What are the symptoms?
A. The high blood pressure and protein in the urine are the tip-off, but there are often no symptoms, which is why it's important for women to get good prenatal care and keep their appointments.
Q. Any other red flags?
A. Severe headaches, or flulike heartburn, or
Q. What happens?
A. Normally, chemical signals from the placenta and fetus stimulate dilation of maternal blood vessels, especially those supplying the placenta. By setting up a good blood supply, the developing fetus is assured of adequate nutrition and oxygen. But in preeclampsia, the maternal blood vessels constrict rather than dilate ... and when the blood flowing through the placenta diminishes, the baby cannot grow normally.
Q. Is there any cure?
A. The only cure is to deliver the baby. In mild cases, the delivery will be delayed as long as possible until close to term. But in a severe or emergency situation, a doctor may have no choice but to deliver the baby early, regardless of age. Magnesium treatment protects the mother from seizures, and medications are given to lower blood pressure.
Q. Are there any drugs or treatments on the horizon? Is there something women can do to be proactive?
A. Normal weight gain,
Q. How did you get interested in preeclampsia? Did you treat someone with it during your training … or have a family member with the disease?
A. Early in my training, I found this disease fascinating as well as a huge challenge in managing my patients. I had an excellent research mentor, Dr. Marshall Lindheimer, at the
Q. What is the one thing you'd want women to know, to make them aware, but not scared?
A. Preeclampsia can be treated and managed to prevent severe complications for both the mother and baby. But a pregnant woman needs to have early, good prenatal care, and she needs to seek care if she develops any of the danger signs of preeclampsia.