PREECLAMPSIA: If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably heard the term “preeclampsia” more than once during your pregnancy. What that really means is hypertension (high blood pressure in pregnancy). Blood pressure rises, putting yourself and your baby at risk for complications. But blood pressure alone is not a full-proof diagnosis for preeclampsia. When high amounts of protein start showing up in the urine, then it’s time to worry. This is why your urine gets checked at each OB/GYN visit, among other things.
TOXEMIA: There are two major causes for high protein levels in the urine, ironically, hypertension is one cause, and dehydration another. The chances for preeclampsia showing up during pregnancy is usually seen more in the second trimester and third trimester of pregnancy, although, it can still show up in early pregnancy. If preeclampsia is left untreated, it can lead to a much more dangerous condition during pregnancy called “toxemia” which can lead to seisures, coma and ultimately death of the mother.
WARNING SIGNS OF PREECLAMPSIA: You should be seeing your OB/GYN at least once a month for a normal pregnancy until the third trimester where your visits should be at two-week and then one-week intervals. Your urine is checked and blood pressure is taken at each of these visits making sure that there are no signs of preeclampsia. The following are some warning signs that you might have preeclampsia, although, not a hundred percent, as pregnancy does cause many changes in the body. But if these symptoms do arise, your doctor or midwife should be keeping an eye out closely to make sure preeclampsia is not the case, and you should make sure to let them know if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:
*Swelling, especially in hands or feet
*Upper abdominal pain
*A lot of weight gain in short periods of time (retaining fluids)
WHO IS AT RISK: Because doctors don’t know exactly why some women are at risk while others are not, we could say that if you’re pregnant, you could potentially be at risk. But studies have found that the following categories put you at even greater risk:
*Over the age of 35 years
*Pregnant with twins or higher-order multiples
*High blood pressure before and during pregnancy
*Diabetes – including gestational diabetes
*Family History of Preeclampsia
Hydration: Now that we know that the two main causes for preeclampsia are hypertension (pregnancy high blood pressure) and dehydration – both of which cause higher amounts of protein in the urine, hence causing the condition – avoiding dehydration would be a wise choice, and the obvious thing to do is make sure you are getting plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially water. Although that sounds easy enough for most, some women experience extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy where they can’t even hold down a glass of water, and in severe cases, this can last through the entire pregnancy. If this is the case with you, try getting fluids through other means such as popsicles and chewing on ice throughtout the day, and even at your bedside during the night. Popcicles and ice may also help to alleviate the nausea symptoms of pregnancy (If you’re vomiting too much and losing large amounts of fluid, your doctor may put you in the hospital for monitoring and get you hydrated through intravenous fluids.) If, however, this is not the case with you, simply drink plenty of fluids, especially water, throughout the day.
Bed rest: If a doctor feels that you may be at high risk for preeclampsia or you do have preeclampsia, you may be put on bed rest. The problem with bed rest is that although your body may be relaxed, your mind is not. The majority of stress and anxiety doesn’t come from the body but from the mind. The average person has approximately 80,000 thoughts a day, both conscious and subconscious, leading to feelings of fear which turn into stress and anxiety in normal everyday people.
Reducing Anxiety and Stress: Being pregnant can bring on more anxiety and stress than most people are aware. There’s the financial fears, fears of knowing what to do, whether you can actually be a good mother; or if you already have children, how that will impact your family now; the fear of whether you can handle having more than one child, and just fear of the pregnancy process in and of itself — hoping that your baby is healthy, that there will be no complications; and, of course, the fear of the actual delivery process and many, many other emotions that can stir up in a pregnant woman. Take these emotions that a pregnant woman has to go through and add on to that the stress of careers, household responsibilities, responsibilities for other children, fighting traffic, relationship issues, the doctor visits themselves are a scary time, especially towards the beginning, having to have tests to know whether or not your babies have certain diseases, complications, problems, etc. The list could just go on and on. The bottom line, all of this causes stress and anxiety during your pregnancy, which could ultimately lead to high blood pressure and eventually preeclampsia, (among other complications).
Relaxation: The best relief for avoiding high blood pressure in pregnancy is a soothing guided meditation designed especially for pregnancy relaxation. What this does is relax not only your body, but it relaxes your mind as well. A proper guided meditation teaches correct breathing techniques for pregnant women. Correct breathing plays a vital part in regulating the heart rate as well as getting the proper amount of oxygen supply to each organ in the body. Most people today walk around totally unconscious of how they are breathing and are probably breathing through the chest area, with short, hard breaths. If you look at a sleeping baby, you’ll see that the baby’s stomach will rise and then fall through each breath and that’s exactly how nature intended us to breathe before stress and anxiety took over.
In guided meditation, you will use simple breathing techniques to slow down the heart rate and increase your oxygen supply. The guided imagery and background music also play a vital role in increasing the Melatonin hormone in your body (a natural hormone in your body to induce relaxation and sleep.) Another important factor in meditation is being aware of your thoughts and then releasing them. The more you practice this, the more you are able to release any negative fears or thoughts that may cause you anxiety or stress throughout the day and just simply start being aware of your thoughts and refocus your thoughts from negative to positive ones. This technique is called mindfulness meditation. Auto suggestion is another key factor in guided meditations. Because the body is the servant of the mind, suggesting healthy, happy thoughts over and over to your body will cause your body to react in positive and healthful ways to these positive suggestions and affirmations from your mind; just as negative thoughts cause stress and anxiety, which causes increased heart rate, reduced oxygen consumption and can lead to many other ailments in the body. The benefits are enormous! The evidence for this is piling up through studies done by Harvord, Stanford and many other universities throughout the country.
How and When to do Relaxation Meditation: To experience the full benefits of a guided meditation, 15 to 20 minutes daily can cause enormous benefits in pregnancy, along with applying the breathing techniques throughout your day. One breathing technique that I find is very easy and effective for pregnant women is called the four-fold breath. Simply start to focus on your breathing. At the in-breath count to four, then hold it for two, then release and count to four. Make sure you are breathing from the solar plexus and not the chest, just watch your stomach rise at the in-breath and fall at the out-breath. Also make sure that the breaths are slow and even. As you continue this rhythm of breathing, become aware of your thoughts, releasing any negative thoughts you have and replacing them with powerful positive thoughts. This is where guided meditations are key to getting the most out of your relaxation time (auto suggestion).
In Conclusion: I hope this information has been helpful in understanding that just as much as proper nutrition and light exercise during pregnancy is important, keeping yourself hydrated and as stress free and relaxed as possible is as vital as the first two and are simple ways of making sure you have a healthy and happy pregnancy without complications.