Nearly 76,000 mothers and 500,000 babies worldwide lose their lives to preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy every year.

To raise awareness of pre-eclampsia as a life-threatening complication of pregnancy, maternal health organisations around the world joined forces to host the third annual World Pre-eclampsia Day on Wednesday, May 22 2019.

For the mother, complications can cause illness for an extended period of time and are strongly associated with the future development of a range of debilitating diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and renal impairment.

Additionally, the World Health Organisation has highlighted that the condition has a highly disproportionate impact on low-to-middle income countries (LMIC), where over 99% of pre-eclampsia-related deaths occur. It is estimated that 16% of maternal deaths in LMICs are the result of pre-eclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. It is the leading cause of maternal mortality in the Americas, accounting for a quarter of all maternal deaths in Latin America, and a tenth of maternal deaths in Africa and Asia.

Too many lives are taken or seriously affected by these disorders, underscoring the importance of symptom recognition, and timely and effective response by trained healthcare workers. This is especially true in areas where access to care is reduced.

With limited understanding about the cause and preventative or effective treatments, the need for basic and clinical research to advance medical options and healthcare practices must be prioritised.

World Pre-eclampsia Day’s theme – “Be prepared before lightning strikes” – highlights the importance of early symptoms recognition because preeclampsia can strike quickly, without warning.

Often women are told that the “cure” for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby. While premature delivery is often necessary to save the life of the mother and the baby, delivery does not always immediately halt the effects of pre-eclampsia that in some cases can even present for the first time up to six weeks after delivery. It can also leave residual physical and/or mental health issues.

Women should take the following actions to monitor their pregnancies for preeclampsia and reduce risk:

The symptoms are:

  • Severe swelling of hands, feet or face,
  • Severe pain under the ribs
  • Severe headaches
  • Visual disturbances such as flashing lights
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling unwell

We advise pregnant women to:

  • Never miss an antenatal appointment
  • Have you blood pressure taken at every visit
  • Have your urine checked and if protein is found this should prompt further tests
  • Go back to your GP or midwife straight away if you have any concerns

APEC, as the national charity for families affected by pre-eclampsia does lots to support women including

  • We run a helpline and provide information to members of the public who are affected by pre-eclampsia – be this pregnant women, their family and friends and anyone worried about pre-eclampsia.
  • We run study days for midwives and health professionals who work with pregnant women, providing expert training on detection and management of pre-eclampsia.
  • We organise the UK meeting on hypertension in pregnancy for experts and researchers
  • We also facilitate a unique expert referral service, whereby women can be referred by their GPs to an expert on pre-eclampsia in their area.
  • APEC also provide leaflets to hospitals and maternity units informing women about pre-eclampsia and the importance of antenatal care. We have distributed over 300,000 leaflets this year alone.
  • We offer FREE online training for midwives on all aspects of pre-eclampsia care.