Toxemia, a condition known as “poisoning of pregnancy” used to be a serious threat. It is more likely to affect someone who has had previous damage to the kidneys or high blood pressure or who now suffers from diabetes or certain other medical conditions.
Toxemia is caused by a disorder of the placenta. Toxemia is responsible for 10 percent of maternal deaths during pregnancy; 2 percent of all emergency cesarean sections; and it is associated with at least 6 percent of all fetal and newborn deaths.
The signs of toxemia are swelling of the tissues (edema), high blood pressure (hypertension) and albumin in the urine (albuminuria). The main symptoms are headaches, blurring of vision, swelling of the hands, feet and face.
It usually appears during the second half of the pregnancy, and is more common in either the very young or mature-age groups. Early symptoms of toxemia are raised blood pressure, protein in the urine, and some times swelling of the face, hands, and legs. If untreated, the disease can rapidly advance to a life-threatening situation for mother and baby.
In advanced toxemia a pregnant woman may suffer from convulsions or hallucinations (these include the flashing lights the Greeks called eclampsia) that are signs of major disturbance in the organs and systems of the mother.
Toxemia can only be cured by delivery of the baby and the afterbirth.
Blood pressure increases when blood vessels contract; reduced blood flow means poorer oxygenation of the tissues and reduced oxygen and nutrient supply to the growing fetus, retarding its growth.
Births are often induced earlier in preeclamptic pregnancies to avoid life-threatening situations, but preeclamptic babies tend to be smaller and weaker at comparable stages than those from uncomplicated pregnancies.
Poor oxygen supply can also cause liver and brain damage to the mother the “flashing lights” of advanced toxemia are a symptom of lowered oxygen supply to the brain.
Meanwhile, early diagnosis and intervention in preeclamptic pregnancies has greatly reduced the risk in most cases to mothers and their babies. Research has revealed that for some women low-dose aspirin taken throughout the pregnancy may reduce the risk of contracting toxemia.
To control toxemia of pregnancy, watch your diet closely, restrict salt and salty foods, baking soda, baking powder and any antacid compound containing sodium. (Certain salt substitutes may be used.) Report any abnormal tissue swellings, headaches and spots before your eyes.