Toxemia is a pregnancy complication, that is caused by high blood pressure. It is a grave condition that can lead to dire complications during the gestational period or during the delivery process. Treating toxemia as soon as possible, is the only way to keep the mother and child safe.
The term ‘toxemia’ refers to pregnancy-induced hypertension. It is a condition affecting 7-10% of pregnant women. Also known as preeclampsia, this condition mostly develops after 20 weeks of gestation. As of today, scientists have not yet been able to zero in on the causative factor, so the exact cause is still unknown. As the placenta develops during a pregnancy, toxemia is seen to occur.
Mostly women in their first pregnancies are seen to develop toxemia, especially those carrying multiple babies. Teenage mothers and women older than 40 are also known to be at greater risks of developing toxemia during pregnancy. However, these are just the probable causes, not the definite ones.
Symptoms of Toxemia During Pregnancy
The symptoms of this condition can be of two kinds:
Mild Toxemia Symptoms
- Elevated blood pressure (exceeding 140/90)
- Protein in the urine
- Weight gain
- Hyper-reflexia (extremely fast reflex responses)
- Swelling of the hands, feet and face due to fluid retention
Severe Toxemia Symptoms
- Excessive and persistent acid reflux
- Vomiting blood
- Blood in urine
- Blurred or double vision
- Sudden blindness
- Decreased urine output
- Gastric pain
- Severe pain in upper abdominal area
- Mental disorientation
- Low amniotic fluid levels
- Intra-uterine growth restriction
Toxemia left untreated can conduce to kidney and liver damage. Toxemia is a potentially fatal disease as it can be detrimental to both mother and child. Consequences of toxemia are rupture of placenta, preterm delivery, fetal growth restrictions, maternal renal failure, pulmonary edema, maternal stroke, precipitous delivery, decreased uteroplacental perfusion, increased perinatal mortality or maternal convulsions. It can also result in grave situations like coma and even death. Read more on high blood pressure during pregnancy.
How is it Diagnosed?
Toxemia has the potential of being a fatal disease and can affect the fetus. Thus, it is important to detect toxemia condition as soon as possible and treat it. Early detection and appropriate treatment will reduce risks and complications during delivery of the baby. Regularly visiting the gynecologist will enable you to detect it as soon as possible. To confirm toxemia condition, your doctor may get you to take a urine test, by which the level of protein in the urine can be detected. Presence of more than 300 mg of protein in 24 hours is considered to be proteinuria, thereby indicating toxemia.
How is Toxemia Treated?
If you have been diagnosed with toxemia, your doctor will ask you to take complete best rest. Lying on one’s left side keeps the baby and other pressure off one’s vena cava. This in turn reduces swelling and blood pressure. The doctor may ask you to get hospitalized, to carefully monitor your blood pressure and amniotic fluid levels. To lower the blood pressure levels, the doctor may prescribe intake of mild hypertensive medicines to reduce risks during delivery.
Steroids are injected into the mother for lung maturity of the fetus. This is a very important step because in case of preterm delivery, the lungs will be mature enough to function and help the child to survive. In case, the blood pressure goes on rising and all efforts to reduce it go in vain, the only option is to induce labor. This has to be done, or else the life of the mother can be threatened.
Since, we do not know what exactly causes toxemia, very little can be done to prevent occurrence of it. Start a pregnancy with good health, good diet and good shape. Keep going for regular checkups and make sure your blood pressure is being monitored on a regular basis. If possible purchase your own blood pressure-measuring apparatus, so that you can check it at home as well. Careful monitoring is the only way to reduce the damage caused by toxemia during pregnancy. Take care!