Preeclampsia complications can affect the fetus and the neonate as well. Babies born to mothers who developed preeclampsia are at risk of developing lifelong complications.
Preeclampsia is the most common complication that can arise in pregnancy affecting between 5 to 8 pregnancies in a hundred. It is characterized by high blood pressure in the mother, the presence of protein in the urine, swelling of the face, hands and the feet and damage to the body organs, especially the kidneys.
All this can pose a danger to the mother and the fetus and the neonate, which can lead to life-threatening complications.
I have already outlined and described the complications to the mother during pregnancy and labor in my previous post.
Intrauterine growth restriction of fetus
Preeclampsia does cause the reduced supply of blood to the placenta due to narrowed arteries.
This results in the insufficient supply of nutrition to the fetus, which causes the baby to become malnourished and small for its gestational age. This condition can be diagnosed on an ultrasound and manually as well
Intrauterine growth is measured during your every prenatal visit to the obstetrician. He or she measures your fundal height, which is measured from the top of your fundus (your bump) to the symphysis pubic bone (top of your pubic bone).
This should measure within 3 cm of the number of weeks of gestation. For example, when you’re 30 weeks pregnant, your fundal height should be somewhere between 27cm and 33cm.
This will vary and it depends on your height and weight during early pregnancy, how many earlier children you’ve had and to which ethnic group you belong.
There are other causes of fetal growth restriction and of all such cases, preeclampsia accounts for 15% of the cases worldwide.
A baby born before 37 weeks of gestation is considered premature. Earlier the baby is born, the more risk of complications setting in. In poor developing countries, the risks increase due to the lack of neonatal intensive care units (NICU).
Premature babies need to be kept in the NICU and that stay can vary from a day to a month.
Long-term problems that can arise in the premature baby are learning disorders, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, blindness, and deafness. Some of these last a lifetime.
Decreased blood supply from the placenta (a common feature of preeclampsia) leads to reduced blood supply to the fetus. This is the most dangerous aspect of preeclampsia that can cause immense harm to the fetus.
Less blood supply causes the baby’s body to restrict blood supply to its limbs, kidney, and stomach in order that its heart and the brain (the more important organs for survival) get sufficient blood.
This can lead to depletion of oxygen reserves in the baby and can cause build up lactate in its body resulting in fetal acidosis.
Metabolic acidosis can lead to further complications such as such as brain damage, or even infant death. Instant delivery of the baby, even if premature, becomes essential.
Death of the baby
This is the most tragic preeclampsia complication as it is neither the mother’s nor the baby’ fault for this end result. Either or all the above conditions can cause newborn mortality. This is seen more in the developing countries where intensive care units to nurse premature babies is not present.
In the United States, approximately 10,500 babies die from preeclampsia each year and worldwide, the figure is estimated at half a million.