May is Pre-Eclampsia Awareness Month

A man and two children posing for the camera.

The month of May has always been special; it is the month that I officially became a physician exactly 30 years ago; it is the month that we celebrate Mother’s Day but unfortunately it is also a month that makes us aware that some mothers are no longer with us because of a pregnancy related condition called pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia affects 5 to 10% of pregnant women on a global scale and 3 to 5% in the U.S. It causes high blood pressure after 20 weeks, protein in the urine, headaches that are unrelieved with acetaminophen, swelling of hands, legs and feet and blurry vision. It is caused by abnormal blood vessels in the placenta and mother and the cure is to deliver the baby. Pre-eclampsia can also occur after the baby is born and requires aggressive treatment to quickly lower the blood pressure in order to avoid a stroke. In addition to strokes, it is sometimes associated with seizures and is then called eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia can be devastating. Each year it claims the lives of approximately 800 women. Joan Donnelly was one of those women and this is her story told by those she left behind and who obviously loved her deeply.

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