I have read that preeclampsia rates are on the rise. What does this mean, and how does it affect me?
Yes, preeclampsia rates are rising, but it is important to consider the reasons behind any headlines and why they may not be all bad. These are some reasons behind the increase (there may be others as well).
One, COVID has increased preeclampsia rates in the last couple of years. We know that contracting covid while pregnant does carry a higher risk of preeclampsia. (Scientists are still determining if this is because covid messes with the placenta and causes the poor implantation that leads to preeclampsia or if it causes a preeclampsia-like illness.) What you can do: Get your covid vaccine, and wear a mask and social distance in areas with high spread.
Two, more women with risk factors for preeclampsia are having babies than ever before. Underlying conditions such as chronic hypertension and diabetes are on the rise in the general population, and those are risk factors for preeclampsia. Being over 40 is a risk factor, and more women over 40 are having babies. Assisted reproduction is a wonderful gift to many families who would otherwise be unable to have children, but it is also a risk factor for preeclampsia, both because it may affect how the placenta develops and because of the reason for needing assisted reproduction in the first place, such as a metabolic disorder. Assisted reproduction also increases the risk of multiples, as does being of advanced maternal age, and multiples are a risk factor for preeclampsia too.What you can do: Get some underlying conditions (like chronic hypertension and diabetes) under control, and ask if you should take low dose aspirin.
Three, we have a better understanding of preeclampsia now too. It has only been since 2013 that the US removed proteinuria as the requirement for a diagnosis, and we still see doctors who insist that the patient cannot have preeclampsia because she does not have significant proteinuria. Now, we know that preeclampsia may affect liver, lungs, and brain, and that a mother can have preeclampsia, specifically with severe features, even if she has no proteinuria. So this greater understanding of the disease has led to more women being recognized as having preeclampsia. Ultimately, this particular aspect is a really good thing, because it means that we are catching more women who really need magnesium so they don't have seizures or die.What you can do: Know your call in and go in numbers and symptoms, and get checked out if there is a concern.