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Dublin: -2°C Sunday 11 April 2021

Preeclampsia kills 76,000 pregnant women each year but warning signs can go unnoticed

Today the first national preeclampsia awareness day, a condition that impacts one in ten pregnancies, was launched.

Baby Isabela , born at 32 weeks , now 8 days old in the Neonatal ward of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.
Baby Isabela , born at 32 weeks , now 8 days old in the Neonatal ward of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.
Image: Picasa

A NEW NATIONAL awareness day for preeclampsia, a potentially fatal condition affecting pregnant women and their babies, was launched today.

Preeclampsia impacts on one in ten pregnancies, although the warning signs can often go unnoticed, causing serious problems for mother and baby that could prove life threatening.


Globally, the condition accounts for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year alone.

Preclampsia can strike quickly, but the most common tell-tale signs are increased blood pressure and protein detected in the urine.

Other warning signs include:

  •  Swelling of hands and face, especially around the eyes
  • Nausea or vomiting, especially suddenly, after mid pregnancy
  • Eyesight, changes in vision like seeing spots or flashing lights; partial or total loss of eyesight
  • Weight Gain of more than five pounds in a week
  • Pain in the upper right belly, sometimes mistaken for indigestion or flu
  • Headache that won’t go away even after taking certain medication
  • Breathing difficulties, such as gasping, panting and shortness of breath

Awareness vital

Eleni Tsigas, a preeclampsia survivor and executive director of the Preeclampsia Foundation in the US is in Ireland this week to meet with government and industry parties to highlight the need for greater awareness of the condition in Ireland.

There is currently no representative body or organisation in Ireland that acts as a voice for preeclampsia awareness, support and information for preeclampsia survivors.

For the mother, it can lead to acute problems of the liver, kidneys, brain and clotting system and survivors of preeclampsia have increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases later in life.

A quarter of all babies born to mothers with preeclampsia are growth restricted and a third are born prematurely. Being born growth restricted predisposes children to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart conditions in adult life.

Save lives

Tsigas said that making people more aware of the condition in Ireland could save lives, adding that while most may think of it as a condition from the past, such as what the fictional Downton Abbey character, Lady Sybil, who died of during childbirth, it still affects women to this day.

I am delighted to be working with the Irish government and industry here, particularly the INFANT Research Centre and Metabolomic Diagnostics, to help raise symptom awareness and encourage more people, male and female, carers and friends, to recognise this potentially fatal illness.

The  Irish National Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) Centre based at Cork University Maternity Hospital is working on an early diagnostic test that has the potential to revolutionise prenatal care globally.

Source: Preeclampsia Foundation/YouTube

Read: Have you ever kept a pregnancy hidden? You’re not alone>

Read: 300,000 die during pregnancy each year and midwives are key to reduction>

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