Postpartum Preeclampsia: Risks, Symptoms, and Treatment

Postpartum Preeclampsia: Risks, Symptoms, and Treatment

You’re fresh to the busy world of being a new mom and the whirlpool of exhaustion, joy, and adjustments that go with it.

And in the midst of it all is your postpartum recovery.

Giving birth is a big deal, Mama, and to say your body is vulnerable is an understatement.

Postpartum complications are a very real possibility, but awareness makes quite an ally—especially for the rare and serious ones like postpartum preeclampsia.

Postpartum Preeclampsia is a rare hypertensive disorder that requires immediate medical attention.

And while it affects between 2% to 8% of pregnancies globally, in the US, Black and African American women are more vulnerable than others.

Scary, yes.

But the right treatment—and information—can get you back to your healthy self relatively quickly.

We’re here to guide you from uncertainty to understanding and take you from worried to confidant.

Because every new mom deserves not just to be taken care of but to feel powerful, informed, and, above all, healthy.

In this article: 📝

  • What is postpartum preeclampsia?
  • What causes postpartum preeclampsia?
  • Signs of postpartum preeclampsia
  • How serious is postpartum preeclampsia?
  • How long does postpartum preeclampsia last?
  • How do you treat high blood pressure after giving birth?
  • Does postpartum preeclampsia go away?

What is postpartum preeclampsia?

Let’s keep this bite-sized and digestible (because it can feel like a lot):

Preeclampsia = a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure and protein in your urine.

Postpartum = after birth

So, basically, Postpartum preeclampsia is a condition that causes high blood pressure and protein in your urine after you give birth.

Sometimes known as postpartum hypertension, it typically appears about 48 hours after giving birth but can take up to 6 weeks to show up.

And it can happen to you whether or not you had preeclampsia symptoms during your pregnancy.

What causes postpartum preeclampsia?

Before we delve into the details, it’s worth flagging that postpartum preeclampsia is considered a rare condition.

Yes, it can happen to any woman—even those with no history of high blood pressure—and it is serious, but it’s only recently been recognized as a significant postpartum complication.

Being the phenomenon it is, we don’t know for sure what causes high blood pressure after giving birth, but we do know the risk factors to watch out for.

These include:

  • Issues with blood pressure: If you’re no stranger to hypertension or preeclampsia, your chances of developing postpartum preeclampsia may increase.
  • Your age: Being on either end of the age spectrum (under 20 or over 40) can increase your chances.
  • Type 1 and 2 diabetes: If you’re living with one of these conditions, you may already be uber-conscious of your blood pressure. The risk of developing postpartum preeclampsia is increased two to four-fold for women with diabetes. More interestingly, non-diabetics who have preeclampsia are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Yes to more research, please.
  • Family history: Blood pressure woes can be passed down. Just like those beautiful eyes you inherited. It all comes with the package.
  • Multiple births: Such as twins or triplets. Women pregnant with twins have a 2-3 times greater risk of developing preeclampsia than women with single births.
  • Black and African-American ethnicity: Not only are Black mothers more at risk of developing preeclampsia and eclampsia, they’re over three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related blood pressure disorders than white women. Self-advocacy is important, but so is closing the gap in health inequities. And it starts with all of us acknowledging that they exist.
  • Previous experience with preeclampsia. If preeclampsia was a feature of your current or previous pregnancy, your chances of postpartum preeclampsia are higher.

Postpartum preeclampsia can happen to anyone who has just given birth.

And the postpartum preeclampsia survival rate depends largely on awareness—being vigilant about signs, gaps in healthcare access and quality of care, and the possible risks.

Currently, 76 000 women globally die each year from blood pressure complications.

So if you’re experiencing symptoms, get in touch with your healthcare practitioner right away.

Advocating for yourself can be hard in medical settings, but an essential step for at-risk groups who struggle to get their voice heard (we see you).

To help you get loud about your (essential) postpartum care, we have the full roster down below.

Signs of postpartum preeclampsia

Postpartum preeclampsia symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Horrible headaches
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Swelling in all sorts of places—your face, arms, legs, hands, feet
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)—140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater
  • Shortness of breath

How serious is postpartum preeclampsia?

There’s no other way to say it: Postpartum preeclampsia definitely needs to be treated quickly.

If not, it can lead to a variety of risky complications such as seizures, strokes, and a life-threatening liver disorder called HELLP.

These can all have long-term effects on your organs and may even lead to permanent damage to your brain, kidneys, and liver.

In the worst-case scenario, untreated postpartum preeclampsia can lead to death.

According to the World Health Organisation, hypertensive disorders account for 14% of all maternal deaths worldwide.

And again, the greatest obstacle to preventing climbing numbers is a lack of awareness and research.

The most effective measure for you as a new mom is to learn the warning signs and risk factors and pay close attention to your body.

So, again, if you are having any of the symptoms listed above, please call your healthcare provider right away.

How long does postpartum preeclampsia last?

The condition can last for several weeks and needs to be closely monitored by your healthcare provider.

Regardless of severity, if you have postpartum preeclampsia, your normal post-childbirth recovery time may be extended a bit—so it might be wise to be flexible about plans to travel or return to work.

How do you treat high blood pressure after giving birth?

First step is diagnosis.

Your doctor will check your blood pressure, do blood tests to check your liver and kidney function, and do a urinalysis to check your urine for protein.

If you’re diagnosed with postpartum preeclampsia, you’ll be given blood pressure meds.

You may also be given blood thinners and anti-seizure treatment.

Does postpartum preeclampsia go away?

The answer is yes!

With treatment, your blood pressure should stabilize, and your other symptoms should hit the road.

Again, knowing the signs of preeclampsia after delivery is the best thing you can do to protect yourself, as it means you’ll be able to get treatment as soon as possible.

So, look out for spikes in blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, vision changes, swelling, and severe abdominal pain.

Check in with your doctor should you experience any of these symptoms, and make sure to check in for follow-up appointments so you can make a full and glorious recovery.

Last but not least, be mindful that the timing of this can be a serious cause of stress.

So, don’t hesitate to enlist your partner or friends and family for help and support—there’s zero shame in prioritizing your health and well-being.

Allow yourself all the time you need to recover.

And know, you’re not alone in this; countless women have passed this path successfully, with babies in arms and a clear roadmap to recovery unfurled before them.

You can even connect with them on Peanut.


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