Posted: Monday, May 6, 2024

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month

May marks a crucial observance for expectant mothers and families worldwide: Preeclampsia Awareness Month. A life-threatening condition exclusive to pregnancy and the immediate six-week postpartum period, preeclampsia can pose significant risks to both mother and child. Historically referred to as toxemia, preeclampsia is diagnosed in 5-8 percent of all pregnancies in the United States, highlighting the urgent need for awareness and education within the health care community and expectant families. “Tennessee has had an increase in the number of women that have pregnancies affected by high blood pressure and preeclampsia,” said Lora Irwin, OB Clinical Educator with Blount Memorial Hospital’s Family Birthing Center.

Preeclampsia is characterized by several symptoms, including but not limited to, swelling of the face, eyes and hands; significant weight gain (exceeding five pounds within a week); persistent headaches; and alterations in vision. These symptoms underscore the condition's complexity and the need for immediate medical intervention. Additional indicators may include pain in the upper right belly area often mistaken for indigestion, notable breathing difficulties, sudden nausea or vomiting post the 20-week gestation period distinct from the "morning sickness" associated with early pregnancy. “It is important that all pregnant and postpartum women are informed about the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia and notify their physician if symptoms develop,” Irwin stated.

The consequences of not recognizing or inadequately managing preeclampsia could potentially lead to seizures, stroke, organ damage, preterm birth and even fatality. Beyond its immediate impact during pregnancy and postpartum, preeclampsia also contributes to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke in affected women later in life. Given these risks, regular prenatal care is essential. Routine blood pressure monitoring during prenatal visits assists in the early detection and management of preeclampsia, which is essential for the health of both mother and child. Women experiencing any symptoms associated with preeclampsia are strongly encouraged to contact their health care provider immediately. Individuals planning pregnancy should consult with a health care provider for preconception screening to identify any health conditions that may elevate the risk of developing preeclampsia.

“At the Blount Memorial Family Birthing Center, our dedicated nursing staff and health care professionals are extensively trained in the recognition and treatment of preeclampsia,” Irwin explained. Supported by the Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care (TIPQC), the Family Birthing Center is equipped to provide home blood pressure cuffs to patients diagnosed with preeclampsia, where necessary. This initiative ensures ongoing monitoring in the comfort of the patient's home, demonstrating commitment to the highest standards of patient care and safety.

As Preeclampsia Awareness Month unfolds, the Blount Memorial Family Birthing Center is committed to discussing the signs, risks and critical importance of prenatal care. Family Birthing Center providers are dedicated to encouraging an informed community, ensuring safer pregnancy experiences, and promoting the health and safety of mothers and their children.

For comprehensive information and resources on preeclampsia, please visit For more information about birthing classes and programs, click here or call 865-977-5555.

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