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What is Preeclampsia? Know the Symptoms and Get Help Early!

My wife was 33 weeks pregnant – soon we will hold our first child! She has been getting headaches lately and her hands and feet are swollen, but that’s normal, right? Now some severe stomach issues and she is doubling over in pain. From that cheeseburger? Then, the symptoms got worse… 

Pregnancy should be a time of joy, but in about 5% of pregnancies, preeclampsia can suddenly change a happy, healthy pregnancy into a life-or-death situation for mom and baby. Within a few hours of my wife’s first symptoms she was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and our daughter was delivered immediately in an attempt to save both of their lives. Thankfully, due to quick medical intervention, they both survived. 

Preeclampsia typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy with sudden-onset high blood pressure and blood vessel damage. If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to stroke, seizures, liver and kidney failure, blindness, and death. The only “cure” for preeclampsia is to remove the placenta and hence, deliver the baby. However, this is not always ideal due to premature birth, which is dangerous for the baby. 

Signs of preeclampsia can mimic typical pregnancy symptoms: stomach pains, nausea, swelling, and headaches. Thus, the disease can progress to life-threatening before it is diagnosed. Early recognition of the symptoms and seeking medical attention is vital for better outcomes for both mom and baby. Preeclampsia causes 76,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 infant deaths per year, but many deaths can be prevented with early medical treatment.

To raise awareness about this devastating pregnancy disease and offer hope for a cure, Promise Walks for Preeclampsia are hosted across Canada by Preeclampsia Foundation Canada, a non-profit charity organized completely by dedicated volunteers. We invite you to London’s Promise Walk for Preeclampsia on June 12th at Springbank Gardens from 10:00am-2:00pm. It will bring our community together, support survivors, promote awareness, and raise funds for research. This is a family friendly event with fun entertainment and activities including face painting, magicians, a photo booth, music, door prizes, and great local foods from BoxCar Donuts, Arva Mill House Bakery and more! Please join us to help put an end to preeclampsia. Because every baby deserves a chance for a healthy start. 

Register to walk: https://bit.ly/pwlondon2022

Like us on Facebook:  London Promise Walk for Preeclampsia

More information: Preeclampsia Foundation Canada: www.preeclampsiacanada.ca


Dr. Stephen Renaud is an Associate Professor at UWO and father of two active little girls. He is a dedicated placental researcher committed to finding better ways to diagnose and treat preeclampsia and other complications of pregnancy.


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