Pregnant? Are you being screened for preeclampsia? You should be

If you’re pregnant, you should be getting your blood pressure checked each time you’re in the doctor’s office. Photos.com

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, that’s an organization that makes recommendations on the standards of medical care, has issued its final recommendations for the screening of preeclampsia. It’s published in the May issue of the Journal of American Medical Association. Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that happens after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It occurs in about 4 percent of pregnancies and can lead to these horrible things:

For the mom:

  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Organ failure
  • Death

For the baby:

  • Grown restriction
  • Low birth weight
  • Stillbirth

It’s the second leading cause of maternal death in pregnancy and because of that, doctors often recommend an early delivery often by cesarean section.

The problem with preeclampsia is it’s unpredictable for who will get it and who won’t. Yes, there’s some genetic history and risk factors, but sometimes it seems to happen in women who were otherwise healthy before they got pregnant.

The task force looked at different kinds of tests it could recommend that would detect preeclampsia. Specifically, it looked at urine stick tests looking for protein and regular high blood pressure screenings.

What it found is that the urine test was not a good predictor, but the high blood pressure screenings were the best we have.

It recommends:

  • That ALL pregnant women have their blood pressure taken each time they are at the doctor’s office. And it tells doctors how to do the blood pressure test so as not to get a false positive.
  • That women who have been identified as at risk because of past experience or genetic history or another factor be given a low dose of aspirin (81 mg) daily after the first trimester.

It also recommends that if the blood pressure is found to be high at the doctor’s office, women test their blood pressure outside of the office to make sure it’s not “white coat syndrome.”

The recommendations are consistent with the 1996 recommendations, which also recommended that all women be screened.

The hope is that doctors will eventually have a better screening method and a better way to predict who is at risk.

 


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