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Toxemia Symptoms
By Barbara Parker, RN, ARNP, CNM

Q. What are the symptoms of toxemia?

A.Toxemia is actually a condition which is called (medically) pregnancy induced hypertension. This can lead to a further complication called pre-eclampsia, which can then lead to eclampsia, followed by a serious complication called the HELLP Syndrome.

PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension) is basically a triad (three) symptoms seen in combination--elevated blood pressure (greater than 140/90 on more than 2 occassions at least six hours apart), protein in your urine, and hyper-reflexia (really over-the-top reflexes).

These symptoms warn of worse to come if they are not heeded. At this point, there are several treatments that may be used, the basic one of which is REST. The Mom is basically put to bed to rest on her side, and the baby and symptoms are monitored. If rest helps, then it is continued until delivery or until other symptoms develop.

If her symptoms worsen, pre-eclampsia develops--she has a headache, epigastric pain (stomach ache with nausea and vomiting) and her lab values start to indicate more problems; then, we start a medication called Magnesium Sulfate, which is used to calm down the hyper-reflexes, since this can lead to seizures (eclampsia)--also a bad thing in pregnancy. When Mom seizes the baby's oxygen supply is cut off and this is obviously a bad thing. The high blood pressure and seizures can also cause the placenta to tear away from the uterine wall, which is of course, deadly.

Through a complex cascade of symptoms, Mom's liver is effected, and causes problems with blood clotting--the blood clots in places it shouldn't, and won't clot where it should, and then really serious problems occur in Mom.

I am sure your health care provider will want to review all your symptoms, but PIH is relatively rare, especially in Moms who have had previously uncomplicated pregnancies. It is more common in teens, older moms (over 40), and moms with a history of having had it before, or with a family history. Multiples (twins,etc) increase the risk as well.

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