Understanding Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition that affects pregnant women worldwide, posing significant risks to both mother and baby. Characterized by high blood pressure and often the presence of protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia requires prompt medical attention to prevent complications that could lead to Eclampsia. Despite medical advances and the efforts to prevent it, preeclampsia remains a leading cause of maternal and infant mortality globally.

According to the World Health Organization, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy contribute to approximately 14% of maternal deaths worldwide, with the overwhelming majority (99%) occurring in LMICs, making it one of the most common complications during pregnancy. While the exact cause of preeclampsia is still unknown, factors such as genetics, immune system disorders and insufficient blood flow to the uterus may contribute to its development. Preeclampsia not only jeopardizes the health of the mother but also increases the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight and other complications for the baby.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms

Early detection of preeclampsia is crucial for effective management and treatment. Some of the common signs and symptoms include:

  1. High blood pressure(hypertension)
  2. Proteinuria(protein in urine)
  3. Swelling of the hands and face, especially around the eyes
  4. Severe headaches
  5. Visual disturbances, such as blurred vision or seeing flashing lights

Prevention and treatment

Certain measures can help reduce the risk and manage preeclampsia effectively. They include:

  1. Regular prenatal care: Attending all scheduled prenatal appointments allows healthcare providers to monitor high blood pressure, urine protein levels and other vital signs closely.
  2. Healthy lifestyle choices: Maintaining a balanced diet, staying physically active and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption can help promote overall health during pregnancy.
  3. Medication: In cases of severe preeclampsia, healthcare providers may prescribe medications to lower blood pressure.
  4. Early delivery: In cases where the mother’s or the baby’s health is at risk, early delivery of the baby may be necessary.

Preeclampsia affects individual pregnancies and has significant implications on public health systems. The condition requires costly medical interventions including hospitalization, medication and sometimes, early delivery increasing the burden of the cost of healthcare.

Current efforts being made to prevent preeclampsia

  1. Addressing disparities in preeclampsia care

Preeclampsia disproportionately affects women in low and middle-income countries, where access to quality maternal health services may be limited. Addressing disparities in healthcare access and delivery is crucial for reducing maternal and infant mortality rates in these settings. Initiatives aimed at strengthening healthcare infrastructure, training healthcare workers and increasing community awareness about maternal health issues can bridge the gap in preeclampsia care and improve outcomes for vulnerable populations.  As Access to Medicines Platform, we have convened a number of community dialogues to sensitize women on the importance of going for prenatal visits for early detection and monitoring of any pregnancy complications including preeclampsia as well as the ANC profile.

II. Empowering women through education and support

Empowering women with knowledge about preeclampsia and equipping them with the tools to take charge of and advocate for their health and well-being is essential for preventing and managing the condition effectively.  Comprehensive prenatal programs that cover topics such as nutrition, exercise and warning signs of complications can empower women to make informed decisions about their health during pregnancy.

We have taken significant steps to enhance community knowledge and education through facility based dialogue sessions, town hall meetings where community members, healthcare providers, and policymakers come together to discuss key issues on maternal health, including preeclampsia. These sessions have created a platform for sharing knowledge, experiences, identifying gaps and developing strategies to improve maternal and newborn health outcomes.

Moreover, through these town hall meetings, participants have had the opportunity to access data from the Health Management Information System, offering evidence to support advocacy efforts and illustrating the impact of preeclampsia through concrete numbers. This data-driven approach helps in identifying gaps, understanding trends, and formulating effective interventions anchored in policy.

Raising awareness through media advocacy

Increasing awareness about preeclampsia is crucial to improving  its prevention, early detection and treatment. Governments, healthcare and advocacy organizations play a vital role in educating the public about the risks and challenges associated with preeclampsia. To further our mission of enhancing maternal health care in communities, Access to Medicines Platform has effectively leveraged media platforms to disseminate crucial information about preventing preeclampsia and highlight the extent of the problem. We have hosted radio talk shows featuring health experts who provide in-depth understanding on preeclampsia prevention, diagnosis, management and treatment. These radio shows have offered valuable insights and practical advice to expectant mothers and the community as a whole.

Additionally, through media interviews, we have highlighted the critical need for investing in the availability of commodities that treat and manage preeclampsia including Magnesium Sulphate and calling upon mothers to attend antenatal care clinics early enough thus reducing the burden of preeclampsia.

Looking Ahead: The Road to Improved Maternal Health

As we continue to grapple with the complexities of preeclampsia and other maternal health complications, we must remain committed to collaborative action and evidence-based interventions. By investing in research, promoting access to quality healthcare services and advocating for policy changes that prioritize maternal health, we can strive towards a future where every woman has the opportunity to experience a safe and healthy pregnancy.

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