The role of nutrition in prevention and management of preeclampsia

Monday, May 29th, 2023 19:17 | By
Pregnant woman holding a bowl of fresh vegetable salad. PHOTO/Courtesy

Affecting five to eight per cent of pregnant women worldwide, preeclampsia is a potentially harmful pregnancy condition that often develops after the 20th week of pregnancy characterised by hypertension and signs of organ damage affecting mostly the kidney and liver.

Although the exact cause of preeclampsia is still unknown, there are several risk factors that can predispose one to it. These factors include a history of preeclampsia in previous pregnancies, kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, obesity, diabetes and chronic hypertension. Preeclampsia may also be prevalent in first time pregnancies or when there is a family history of the condition.

Preeclampsia symptoms include hypertension, rapid weight gain, edema, severe headaches, visual disturbances and abdominal pain. It is vital to seek medical attention once these symptoms arise. The complications of preeclampsia affect both the mother and the baby. In severe cases, preeclampsia puts the infant at risk of developing respiratory diseases, facing developmental delays, having low birth weight and can even cause premature death. For the mother, complications may include seizures, organ damage, stroke, HELLP syndrome and can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases later on in life.

Proper nutrition plays an important role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy and has a significant impact on prevention and management of preeclampsia. A well-balanced diet including all the essential nutrients and minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium has been associated with lower risks of preeclampsia. These minerals help in improved blood vessel function, supporting a healthy blood pressure and maintaining electrolyte balance respectively.

Moreso, a healthy pregnancy diet should include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals that promote overall health and well-being. Maintaining a healthy weight before and during pregnancy through regular exercise and a balanced diet helps minimize the risk of obesity related complications including preeclampsia. It is also important to note that nutritional requirements are different for everyone and in every stage of the pregnancy, therefore consulting a registered dietician or a healthcare provider is recommended as to provide guidance on supplementation, dietary requirements, pre-existing conditions and overall pregnancy goals.

In conclusion, to reduce the risk of preeclampsia, early detection and management is vital. Regular prenatal checkups that include screening, blood tests, ultra sounds exams may be performed to monitor the health of mother and baby.

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