Among pregnancy complications to watch out for, eclampsia is at the top of the list.

We at CaptainMums have thoroughly talked about preeclampsia and its most common symptoms, but now it's time to focus on the next, and severe, stage that it can lead to: eclampsia. 

Keep reading to find out all the information about such serious condition, which can be deadly for you and your baby when not treated properly.


What is eclampsia?

Indeed, eclampsia is a condition that can 'hit' pregnant women during the last stage of their pregnancy, especially from 20 weeks pregnant on, during labour and even, but rarely, right after birth. It follows preeclampsia and it is mainly caused by high blood pressure affecting the brain, which can result in convulsions, seizures and, in a worst-case scenario, coma and death. Of course, its intensity can vary from mild, which is still dangerous, to severe, needing medical attention in both cases. Statistically, eclampsia affects about one in every 2.000 to 3.000 pregnant women.


What causes eclampsia?

Doctors haven't found specific answers to determine what eclampsia is caused by, though they've pointed out some factors that may play an important role in triggering it. These include:

  • High blood pressure and blood vessel problems
  • Genetic components
  • Neurological factors
  • Poor, unbalanced diet


Also, women with preeclampsia may be at high-risk for eclampsia when: 

  • They are hypertensive
  • They have abnormal blood tests
  • They suffer from regular headaches
  • They are either older than 35 or younger than 20
  • They are expecting twins or multiples
  • It's their first pregnancy
  • They have a medical history of diabetes or kidney failure


What are its most common symptoms?

In our articles dedicated to preeclampsia, we listed preeclampsia symptoms such as excessive weight gain, blurred vision, vomiting and severe headaches, just to remind you some of the most important ones. Well, being aware of this information, the foremost side effects that distinguish eclampsia from preeclampsia are:  

  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe agitation
  • Headache and muscle pain around your body 

The doctor will perform a physical exam to look for the origin of those convulsions. He may also check your blood pressure and your breathing rate. If needed, you may also have a blood and urine test.


Prognosis of eclampsia

As mentioned throughout the article, eclampsia can be life-threatening in extreme cases. The restricted blood flow in your body that occurs with preeclampsia can damage your organs, including your brain. When that happens, eclampsia takes over and its consequences aren't easy to predict. Most of the time, the symptoms disappear once you give birth, though complications can arise even after the baby is born.


What risks does it pose for my baby?

High blood pressure can lead to a dangerous condition called placental abruption, which happens when the placenta separates from the inner wall of the womb. This can be very threatening for your baby, because it deprives him of the necessary oxygen and nutrients. Lacking those, the foetus may not be able to complete its development, resulting in the baby being born with a low birth weight, among other health problems. While it doesn't happen very often, eclampsia can potentially lead to stillbirth.


How to treat eclampsia

The most effective way to treat eclampsia is, simply, by having an early and monitored delivery that can protect you and your child. Before choosing this option, which can take place from the 32nd week of pregnancy on (in severe cases) there are other treatments to keep eclampsia under control. First and foremost, the doctor will prescribe you anticonvulsants, a medication to prevent seizures. Along with this, you'll be given medication to lower your high blood pressure.

Besides administrating you drugs, the healthcare professional will recommend that you get a lot of rest and have regular checkups to make sure that you are ok. In other cases, they may even admit you to hospital.