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Top Preeclampsia Myths

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2004 03:49 pm
by annegarrett
1. Women do not die in childbirth in this day and age.
Every year 585,000 women die in childbirth, most in developing countries. 13% (or 50-70,000) of those deaths are known to be from eclampsia alone. Research shows that more women actually die of preeclampsia than eclampsia. In the USA 18% of pregnancy-related deaths are due to the disease. (Approximately 180 women a year or 3 women a week...) Even women, who do not die experience trauma, lose babies and suffer lifelong disabilities including paralysis, blindness, permanent neurological impairment, hypertension, liver failure, kidney failure, etc…

2. Preeclampsia is rare.
Preeclampsia occurs in 5-10% of all pregnancies. Internationally this accounts for 6-8 million births a year, in the USA—approximately 200-400,000 pregnancies. Preeclampsia is as common in the USA as breast cancer. A woman’s risk of having a baby with Downs Syndrome is 1:250. A woman’s risk of having preeclampsia is 1:20. Preeclampsia is the most dangerous of the leading common complications of pregnancy.

3. Preeclampsia only happens once and only in the first pregnancies.
The leading risk factor for preeclampsia is actually a previous experience with preeclampsia. While rare, preeclampsia can occur in second pregnancies even if it did not happen in the first. It can occur in the first, then skip a pregnancy and reoccur in a third.

4. Only certain kinds of women (heavy, old, young, black, Hispanic, women with twins, etc…) get preeclampsia.
While women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30% or higher, of advanced maternal age (over 35), teenagers, African Americans, Hispanics and those expecting multiples are among those at an increased risk—studies show that these “risk factors” do not predict who will get the disease and to what severity with which it will occur.

5. You can prevent (or you caused) preeclampsia with “x” (diet, exercise, attitude, working/not working outside the home).
Preeclampsia occurs in every country in the world regardless of diet, body size, and lifestyle. No significant study has shown that any of these factors are the cause or the cure for preeclampsia. Women in famine torn Ethiopia experience preeclampsia as often as women in San Francisco.

6. Pregnant women do not need to know about preeclampsia because only 5-10 out of every 100 will get it.
Because we cannot safely predict who will and will not get preeclampsia—and of those women who will and will not lose a baby and/or die, all women, particularly those in their first pregnancy, or with known risk factors, should be warned about the complications and dangers of preeclampsia. Women are taught about Downs Syndrome, breast cancer self-exams, pap smears. Most women would rather know.

7. Once the baby is delivered—the mother is fine.
While it is true that delivery sets in motion the recovery process, most maternal deaths occur in the 24-48 hours after the birth of the baby. Preeclampsia, eclampsia and the complications from it can occur up to six weeks post-partum. Vigilant post-partum care could prevent many of these deaths.

8. Preeclampsia has little to no impact on the baby.
Preeclampsia can cause intrauterine growth restriction and is the #1 reason doctors choose to deliver early. Preeclampsia is the leading known cause of prematurity accounting for 15% of preterm births in the US or approximately 60,000 premature births. It is also a leading cause of neonatal and infant death.

Anne Garrett
Executive Director
Preeclampsia Foundation