Preeclampsia affects 5-8% of pregnancies in the United States, but when it comes to understanding risks for pregnant mothers, there is a massive information disconnect.
Preeclampsia can affect any pregnant mother — it does not discriminate based on prior history of blood-pressure complications. Perhaps because of its prefix, there is a misconception that preeclampsia only occurs before delivery, in the prenatal period. However, women can develop preeclampsia in the postpartum period even if they did not experience gestational hypertension. And despite the popular understanding that delivery of the baby “solves” preeclampsia, many women experience complications from preeclampsia long after childbirth.
For better identification and management of preeclampsia, and better outcomes for mothers, we need to close the information gap for women, and empower them with the tools to recognize issues and advocate for themselves.
Educated patients are healthier patients.
The information gap is less tied to a lack of information as it is to an overload of information — and the difficulty of discerning what is credible.
The proliferation of information on the internet; advice from social circles; and natural tendencies to either downplay or dramatize pregnancy symptoms because of experiences with mothers, friends, or previous pregnancies create a cacophony of conflicting information for pregnant women. It can lead them to question when the problems in pregnancy are just normal side effects, and when they might be symptomatic of bigger problems.
Preeclampsia is the perfect example of a situation where this confusion can lead to serious issues. Many of the warning signs of preeclampsia overlap with normal pregnancy symptoms — it’s easy to dismiss complaints of headaches or dizziness or swelling, especially if a woman is already inclined to downplay her symptoms or doesn’t feel empowered to express her concerns to her provider.
Women need to be educated on the risks that they face, in a digestible and accessible manner and through a trusted source, so that they can properly assess their symptoms and confidently communicate concerns to their doctor.
Monitoring blood pressure empowers mothers through data.
Knowing how to recognize and speak about symptoms is the first step to identifying preeclampsia, but education is only a part of empowering women to manage their risk. Recording their own blood pressure enables women to take an active role in risk monitoring, and offers the security of oversight outside of the doctor’s office.
Coupling education about symptoms with blood pressure monitoring can help a patient differentiate between a normal and abnormal symptom — for example, swelling on its own can be dismissed as mere water weight, but in conjunction with a high blood pressure reading it becomes motivation to see a doctor.
In some cases, high blood pressure may be the only red flag for preeclampsia, making remote monitoring even more critical for identifying preeclampsia before it turns into a life-threatening issue, like eclampsia or HELLP syndrome.
The ability to point to an elevated blood pressure reading when bringing an issue to a provider’s attention adds weight to a pregnant mother’s concerns. It can provide the necessary motivation that a patient needs to bring those concerns to her provider, and a reason for a provider to monitor a patient more closely or call her into the office.
For women who struggle to be heard in appointments or are afraid to bring things to the attention of their doctor for fear of overacting or being dismissed, having data to substantiate a claim can be the difference between catching a complication in time or ending up in the emergency room, or worse.
Babyscripts' risk identification in real-time.
Babyscripts’ mom, Sarah Sachs, experienced no blood pressure complications before or during her pregnancy and was normotensive at discharge. However, she quickly became hypertensive in the days following delivery. She credits Babyscripts for catching her postpartum preeclampsia: “If I hadn’t been using the app, I wouldn’t be here.”
Read her full story: After a low-risk pregnancy, remote BP monitoring might have saved this mom's life.