I’ve decided to share a little information about preeclampsia—the condition that caused me to have to deliver my son Cooper prematurely, resulting in his developmental delays.

Preeclampsia isn’t exactly preventable—but there are still plenty of things expectant mothers can do to try to keep preeclampsia away. 

First, you need to understand what preeclampsia is.

If the name seems unfamiliar, it’s because preeclampsia was formerly known under a different nomenclature—toxemia.

It’s called preeclampsia because the symptoms can cause seizures—at which point preeclampsia becomes eclampsia.

While the exact causes of preeclampsia and eclampsia are unknown, the conditions are a result of a placenta that’s not functioning properly.

Some researchers believe poor nutrition, high body fat, or insufficient blood flow to the uterus are possible causes, while others believe good ol’ genetics are also a factor.

The scary thing about preeclampsia and eclampsia is that they can put both mother and baby at high risk—and can even cause death in both in severe cases.

Symptoms include excessive and abrupt weight gain—mostly from water—as well as major swelling, extremely high blood pressure, and high protein count in your urine.

I was one of those severe cases.

At one point, my blood pressure soared to 195 over 120 and my protein count reached 14.

Normal protein count is 1-2.

It was, of course, at this point that my doctor decided Cooper must be delivered—or else we were both toast.

The strange thing about all of this is, I felt pretty fine during all of it, despite the fact that I gained forty pounds of water weight in less than a week and my feet, legs, and ankles were so swollen they broke my favorite pair of flip-flops.

In fact, had I not gone for a regular, routine visit to my doctor, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the hospital in time.

I’m not saying every mother feels totally normal under these circumstances, I’m just saying that’s how it went with me.

Now, back to what expectant mothers can do to try to prevent these conditions from occurring.

Some of the other factors that put women at risk for preeclampsia include a history in your mother or a sister, first-time pregnancies, pregnancy in your teens, and pregnancy in women over 40. Obesity, a pregnancy of multiples(twins, triplets, etc.), a history of diabetes, kidney disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, and a history of high blood pressure are all considered common factors of preeclampsia and eclampsia—but I didn’t have a history of any of these problems.

In fact, the only other problem I had had with my pregnancy was hyperemesis gravidarum during my first and second trimester—but according to my doctor, HG wasn’t a factor in preeclampsia.

In fact, most HG babies were stronger than other babies—which is one reason why my little preemie was able get stronger and gain weight much sooner than anticipated.

Now that you know some of the risk factors—and the fact that you can just be a freak of nature like myself and get it without being prone to any of these risks—here’s what you can do to prevent it.

1. First, drink lots and lots of water and stay away from sodas and other drinks high in caffeine and sugar.

2. Second, try to follow a healthy diet that’s low in salt and sodium. If you’re cutting out high calorie drinks like sodas, you’re already cutting your sodium intake in half.

3. Exercise, mainly brisk walks for at least 20 minutes a day, is also a major preventative step. In addition to walking, yoga is also one of the best workouts for pregnant mothers and high blood pressure.

4. If you are prone to high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about beginning a daily dose of a blood pressure medication that’s safe in pregnancy. Some doctors even advise high-risk mothers to add a daily dose of baby aspirin to their regimen.

The only cure for preeclampsia and eclampsia is delivering your baby—and if it’s sooner than 37 weeks, your baby may be at risk for developmental delays and other problems.

Take it from me, adjusting your diet and lifestyle to prevent these conditions is more than worth it.

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